TAMPA — It's a rivalry borne of familiarity and proximity. Most of Sickles' and Gaither's players compete in the same club program. Some reside in the same neighborhoods.
And for more than 100 intense, electrifying minutes Friday, they performed on the same level.
A match that might have gone on until Gasparilla morning was decided after two 10-minute overtimes, via penalty kicks. The clincher came from Sickles senior Patrick Miller, who sent his shot left when Gaither keeper John Nardozzi leaned right and capped a 3-2 (4-1 PKs) Gryphons triumph in the Class 5A, District 9 final at King High.
"My heart was beating so fast, I just went for the spot that I thought I was going to make it," Miller said. "Every game that we play (against Gaither) it's the most intense game, like we're playing the state finals."
The match featured eight yellow cards, one ejection (of a Cowboys assistant) and ebb and flow until the final seconds of the second overtime, when Eric McBride's 20-yard shot was caught by Sickles keeper Brandon Stout.
"It's bad when you go to PKs because it really doesn't show a definite win," said Gryphons coach Tony Calvo, who nonetheless will take the program's first district title trophy. "I thought it was a great match. Gaither (15-4-1) by far is the toughest team we've played."
Lanky Cowboys senior Ryan Foerstner scored first, heading in David Barrientos' long throw-in past Stout in the 22nd minute.
Four minutes later, Sickles (21-1-3) tied the score on Boris Simeunovic's penalty kick.
Sickles finally took its first lead when senior Joey Ltief sent a cross to classmate Matt Brown for a 6-yard goal in the 69th minute.