TAMPA — After a 100-minute command performance Tuesday night against north Tampa rival Gaither, Sickles senior goalkeeper Brandon Stout still had an encore left in him.
Forced to the penalty-kick round for the second time in 12 days against the Cowboys (16-5-1), Stout deflected Gaither's first three attempts Tuesday to lift his team to a 1-0 triumph (PK, 3-0) in the Class 5A region semifinals.
Moments before, following the second 10-minute overtime, Stout told Gryphons goalkeeper coach Ricky Calvo he wouldn't allow a Gaither PK.
"I've been with this team for four years, this is our time," said Stout, who had blocked three of four Cowboys PKs in a 3-2 district final win Jan. 29. "I'm not letting anything stop us, especially whenever someone comes in our home."
Sickles (23-1-3), 15th nationally in the ESPN Rise Fab 50 national rankings, hosts Seminole in Friday's region final with a state tournament berth at stake. The Gryphons can only hope Stout remains as impenetrable as he was on a wet field Tuesday.
His six saves in regulation included a clutch block of Eric McBride's point-blank attempt in front of the net with roughly three minutes to play, and a denial of a Jordan See shot about four minutes earlier. Eight minutes into the match, See's 10-yard shot from the right side had hit the right post.
The Gryphons, by contrast, fared no better in the first 100 minutes against Gaither's John Nardozzi, who also had six saves. But Carlos Rodriguez and Boris Simeunovic each slipped shots past him in the PK round before senior Gil Davis — battling a sinus infection — lofted a high shot just over Nardozzi to clinch things.
"(Gaither) has been the toughest team we've played," said Gryphons coach Tony Calvo, whose club finishes 3-0 against its rival this season. "A lot of credit to them for going this far."