TAMPA — Sickles running back Ray Ray McCloud III has a chance to accomplish something no running back has done in Hillsborough County.
Rush for 3,000 yards in a season.
In 2013, the shifty back led the state (according to MaxPreps) with 2,319 yards.
If he reaches his goal of 3,000 yards, McCloud not only will become the county’s all-time leading rusher, passing Davis (5,576), but he also would set a bar so high that no one could meet it for years to come.
“Three thousand has always been my goal,” McCloud said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to doing this season.”
In 2012, Davis broke former Riverview standout Avious Steadman’s 11-year record of 5,333 yards. Entering his senior year, McCloud has 3,832 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns.
A consensus four-star recruit, McCloud has verbally committed to Clemson. At the college level, he’s expected to play a similar role to his high school career as an offensive weapon, being used on special teams, passing schemes, as well as running the ball.
“He’s a playmaker,” Sickles coach Brian Turner said. “We want to put the ball in his hands and get out of the way. He can score anytime he wants.”
Stacked with a dynamic running back in senior Ray Ray McCloud III, Sickles once again will be one of the highest-scoring teams in Florida. Head coach Brian Turner wants to run at last 70 plays per game in a no-huddle offense.
“It’s going to be hard to beat,” McCloud said. “We’ve been running this offense for a year now and we’re prepared for anybody. (Teams) better be well-conditioned because we still get tired doing it.”
The Gryphons return three starters on the offensive line in addition to quarterback Isaac Holder, who had a breakout junior year, throwing for 1,821 yards and 18 TDs, while running for another 572 yards and six touchdowns.
“This summer, I feel like I’ve progressed more than I ever had,” Holder said. “We’re going to have a great offense this year.”
One of Holder’s top targets will be sophomore receiver Jeff Ysma.
Sickles’ strength will be its linebackers, consisting of juniors Jake Hampton and Cameron Miller and senior Logan Braswell, who all 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 prospect, gives the Gryphons a defensive back who can defend in one-on-one situations.
Sickles made history last year by winning the program’s first district title en route to reaching the region final, the farthest of any team in program history. A heartbreaking loss to Kissimmee Osceola in the region final will serve as motivation.
“I hope the guys remember that and it drives them,” Turner said. “It motivates us.”
Though his team is the defending district champion, Turner isn’t expecting his Gryphons to walk through the 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.”
♦ About The Gryphons
Stadium: Gryphons Stadium, 7950 Gunn Highway, Tampa
Class-District: 7A-7 (with Freedom, Gaither, Steinbrenner, Tampa Bay Tech and Wiregrass Ranch)
Coach: Brian Turner (34-10, fifth season)
Last season: 11-2
Aug. 29: Robinson
Sept. 5: at Durant
Sept. 12: Newsome
Sept. 19: at Steinbrenner
Oct. 2: Freedom
Oct. 10: Plant
Oct. 17: at Gaither
Oct. 24: Wiregrass Ranch
Oct. 31: at Tampa Bay Tech
Nov. 7: at Alonso