TAMPA — The rain and wind blanketing the Tampa Bay area from Tropical Storm Nestor are ideal for a physical, run-first team like Pinellas Park. The Patriots took full advantage of the monsoon-like conditions in a key Class 7A, District 9 contest on Friday.
Florida State commit Lawrance Toafili rushed for 231 yards and four touchdowns as Pinellas Park (5-3, 4-0) moved one step closer to a district title in a convincing 36-6 win over Sickles (5-4, 2-2) on senior night in Citrus Park.
The four-star recruit started the scoring in the first quarter with a dazzling 28-yard run, slipping out of several tackles as the wet conditions created an additional challenge for the Gryphon defense. Later in the quarter, the senior showed his speed, bursting up the middle for a 70-yard touchdown run and 14-0 lead.
The physical Patriots gained big chunks of yards in the second quarter, using an array of dives, traps, off tackles and sweeps to move the ball. Midway through the frame, it was Columbus Holston getting into the action with a 14-yard touchdown run to give Pinellas Park a commanding 21-0 lead.
Later in the quarter, the Patriots embarked on a 13-play 92-yard drive that included a steady dose of Toafili, Holston and Ulysees Hampton, and included quarterback Brandon Brearley’s only completion of the night, an 8-yard toss to Toafili. The drive culminates in a 35-yard touchdown around end by Toafili and a 28-0 halftime lead.
On the first play of the third quarter, it was Toafili exploding for a 64-yard touchdown run as the game was moved to a running clock.
Although the Patriot offense was unstoppable, the defense was also up to the challenge. The defensive front created pressure for Gryphon quarterback Brandon Dessi all night. Dessi finished 8-of-19 for 59 yards and two interceptions, as defensive backs A.J. Boyd and Cody Willoughby notched picks while Tyrell Yeldon contributed a sack.
Sickles avoided a shutout as Kohl Robertson scored on a 6-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
Pinellas Park can wrap up a district crown next week at East Lake. Sickles’ playoff hopes took a big hit in defeat. The Gryphons end their regular season next week at Mitchell.