TAMPA — It was a night of firsts at Sickles as the Gryphons advanced to the second round of the state playoffs with a 17-10 win against Plant City in Class 7A-Region 2.
The win was the first ever for the Gryphons in the playoffs, and their first time hosting a playoff game. Ray Ray McCloud III was held to 126 yards rushing, but it didn’t matter because the Sickles’ defense was dominant.
“We might have bent,’’ said Sickles coach Brian Turner, “but we never broke. Our defense played its heart out tonight.’’
Sophomore Carter Mulroe made two key plays that led to the win. He blocked a punt early in the second quarter that led to a field goal by Daniel Lezotte. Later, Mulroe sacked Plant City quarterback Landon Galloway deep in Sickles territory.
“We expected a tough one,’’ Mulroe said. “We thought it would come down to special teams and it did.’’
Sickles (10-1) got on the board early in the second quarter when Mulroe blocked the Plant City (8-3) punt to set up the field goal by Lezotte.
The special teams came through again for the Gryphons when a Plant City field goal attempt was partially blocked. The Gryphons rolled to the Plant City 9 when quarterback Issac Holder scored on a keeper.
Plant City made it 10-7 when Hassan Bailey went around left tackle on a 75-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.
Sickles went on a long drive until McCloud was stopped on fourth-and-inches, and the Raiders returned with a drive of their own. Christian Hoyle tied it with a 25-yard field goal.
McCloud started to wear down the Plant City defense and put the Gryphons ahead with a 1-yard score to cap a long drive.
The Raiders responded. Galloway completed a long pass that put the ball deep in the red zone, but Sickles forced a fourth-and-goal from the 2 with just over three minutes left. Mulroe sacked Galloway and the Gryphons held on to advance.
Sickles will host East Bay on Friday.
Plant City 0 0 7 3 — 10
Sickles 0 10 0 7 — 17
S – FG Lezotte 31
S – Holder 9 run (Lezotte kick)
PC – Bailey 75 run (Hoyle kick)
PC – FG Hoyle 25
S – McCloud 1 run (Lezotte kick)