Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sickles' defense may be as impressive as its powerful offense



Sickles' offensive output during its season-opening victory at Robinson really wasn't much of a surprise. With quarterback Isaac Holder and running back Ray Ray McCloud behind a solid offensive line, the Gryphons ran circles around an outmanned Knights defense in a 35-14 win.

But the Gryphons' standout defense provided a pleasant surprise.

Sickles limited Robinson to just two scores — both coming on long touchdown throws — and otherwise dominated defensively. Sickles allowed just 35 yards rushing and forced five turnovers and twice took advantage of Robinson miscues on fourth downs.

Sickles will attempt to continue its solid play and winning ways Friday against a Durant team coming off a 42-point loss to Armwood.

"We've been preparing for this all summer," said Sickles coach Brian Turner, whose team was ranked seventh in the state's Class 7A poll to start the season. "We've got a good defensive front with some guys that are tough to block. We've got some athletes spread out on both sides of the ball.

"Right now we've just got to get prepared for a good Durant team. We'll have our work cut out for us."

In other North Tampa area highlights from the Week 2 schedule, Gaither hosts an impressive Newsome team, Carrollwood Day looks to rebound from a tough loss with a road game at Indian Rocks Christian, and Alonso and Steinbrenner square off in Lutz.

All games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m., unless otherwise noted.

Berkeley Prep (1-0) at Lakeland Victory Christian (1-0), 7 p.m.

Last week: Berkeley Prep defeated Middleton 23-12; Victory Christian defeated Admiral Farragut 47-21.

Why you should go: An interesting individual matchup: Berkeley quarterback Brad Mayes against Victory middle linebacker Kevin Coy, who returned an interception for a touchdown last week. Mayes struggled a bit in the win against Middleton, throwing two interceptions. Still, he was able to do enough to secure the win.

Cambridge Christian (0-1) at Bradenton Christian (1-0)

Last week: Cambridge Christian lost to Bell 52-40; Bradenton Christian defeated Sarasota Out-of-Door 38-9.

Why you should go: Cambridge's offense started off the season with a bang, using a 22-point barrage in the fourth quarter to score 40 points. Unfortunately, its defense was quite giving, allowing Bell 52 points. The Lancers will have to do better defensively to stop a solid Panthers running game.

Alonso (0-1) at Steinbrenner (0-1)

Last week: Alonso lost to Jefferson 41-14; Steinbrenner lost to Plant City 25-10.

Why you should go: To see which squad can rebound better from a poor showing. Alonso was turnover-prone on offense and couldn't stop the run on defense in its opener. Steinbrenner has been dealing with offensive injuries and could only muster 10 yards of offense during its loss to Plant City. On a side note, the aggressive Steinbrenner defense did force three turnovers and Kezio Snelling had an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown for the Warriors.

Wharton (1-0) at Plant City (1-0)

Last week: Wharton defeated Spoto 38-0; Plant City defeated Steinbrenner 25-10.

Why you should go: To watch Wharton quarterback Chase Litton's new favorite target in action. Wideout Auden Tate. 6-feet-4, caught two touchdowns in the season-opening shutout victory. Plant City has its own playmaker in quarterback Landon Galloway, who combined for 300 yards of offense and three touchdowns last week.

Chamberlain (0-1) at Leto (0-0)

Last week: Chamberlain lost to Gaither 28-0; Leto was off.

Why you should go: Because this could be the night Leto ends its losing streak. Leto scored as many points as Chamberlain did last week — without even suiting up. With the Chiefs in transition with their new coaching situation, this could be Leto's chance for its first win not via forfeit since the 2009 season finale.

Durant (0-1) at Sickles (1-0)

Last week: Durant lost to Armwood 48-6; Sickles defeated Robinson 35-14.

Why you should go: Two reasons: Holder and McCloud. The Gryphons' dynamic duo combined for more than 250 yards on the ground and four touchdowns in the season-opening win. Let's see what they do against Durant, which may not be the team that went unbeaten last regular season, but can't be as bad as its 48-6 loss to Armwood would indicate.

Freedom (0-1) at Middleton (0-1)

Last week: Freedom lost to King 34-9; Middleton lost to Berkeley Prep 23-12.

Why you should go: To see which one of these squads has really improved since last season. The Patriots wore down in the second half last week and saw a 1-point deficit turn into a 25-point loss. Middleton, meanwhile, was able to make some plays (but not enough) in its loss at Berkeley Prep.

Newsome (1-0) at Gaither (1-0)

Last week: Newsome defeated Tampa Bay Tech 23-12; Gaither defeated Chamberlain 28-0.

Why you should go: Because Newsome may turn out to be one of the better teams Gaither faces this season. The Wolves shocked Tampa Bay Tech last week after losing five fumbles in one half — still going on to win. Gaither, meanwhile, looked solid against an overmatched Chamberlain squad as quarterback Alex McGough ran and passed for scores.

Carrollwood Day (0-1) at Indian Rocks Christian (0-1)

Last week: Carrollwood Day lost to Jacksonville University Christian 47-0; Indian Rocks Christian lost to St. Petersburg Catholic 28-13.

Why you should go: Carrollwood Day, ranked fifth in the statewide Class 2A preseason poll, will be out to prove itself after its opening night dismantling at the hands of University Christian, the defending state 2A champs.

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