To preview the 2014 high school football season, The Tampa Tribune is counting down the top-10 teams in Hillsborough County. These preseason rankings were voted on by Tribune writers Scott Purks and Nick Williams, high school sports editor Doug Jacobs and correspondent Jarrett Guthrie.
TAMPA — Not a week goes by that Sickles High football coach Brian Turner doesn’t think about or watch film of his team’s 19-14 region championship loss to Kissimmee Osceola from last season.
“I hope the guys remember that and it drives them,” Turner said.
Sickles made program history last year by winning the team’s first district title en route to reaching the region championship, the farthest of any team in school history. There’s a sense among the players and coaches, however, that last year’s team could have gone a step further.
“It sticks with me a lot,” said senior running back Ray Ray McCloud, who led Hillsborough County in rushing last season with 2,316 yards. “We have a couple of players on the team that played and started in that game, and they know how it felt too.”
“We just want to get back to that spot and get to state,” senior quarterback Isaac Holder said.
Stacked with a dynamic running back, a dual-threat quarterback and a talented group of linebackers, that seems like a strong possibility this season for the Gryphons.
For starters, Sickles has the talent to again be one of the highest scoring teams in Florida. Turner plans to run at least 70 plays per game in a no-huddle offense.
“It’s hard to keep up with our offense,” said Holder, who had a breakout junior year, throwing for 1,821 yards and 18 TDs while running for another 572 yards and six touchdowns. “It’s hard to keep up with our receivers. I’m fast and Ray Ray’s fast, of course. It’s hard for a defense to contain me and Ray at the same time with the ability to throw the ball over the top.”
Sickles’ strength on defense will be its linebackers, which consist of juniors Jake Hampton and Cameron Miller and senior Logan Braswell, who each totaled more than 70 tackles last year, with Hampton leading the bunch with 120. The three linebackers also had a combined 47 tackles for losses. In the secondary, Gaither transfer Nate Ferguson, a three-star college prospect, gives the Gryphons a defensive back who can defend in one-on-one situations.
Though his team is the defending district champion, Turner isn’t expecting his Gryphons to walk through their district schedule.
“You have Gaither and Tampa Bay Tech, and Steinbrenner will probably have the best team they’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s not like it’s easy.”
Aug. 22 at Tampa Catholic
Aug. 29 vs. Robinson