The Sickles Gryphons knocked off Plant City and East Bay to reach the 7A state quarterfinals. Sickles met their match against Osceola (Kissimmee) as the Osceola ground and pound attack was enough to win 19-14.
It was still a very enjoyable year for Sickles as Ray Ray McCloud III ran for 2,316 yards and 26 rushing touchdowns. That's no typo.
"Once the year was over, it was enjoyable to look back on," said head coach Brian Turner. "During the year, it was enjoyable when we were winning, but we didn't get to really enjoy it till the year was over. We didn't get to go as far as we wanted, so we feel like we have unfinished business. So the season wasn't all satisfaction. I feel we could have gone farther."
Sickles is sending off four D1 athletes in Josh Black (USF), Zach Hudson (USF), Devin Santana (FAU), and Chett Leavy (FIU). Sickles is losing a lot of interior strength on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, but coach Turner isn't too worried.
"We had four D1 guys last year, so we have to replace those guys. They're hard to replace, but we have a good linebacker crew that's young. We have a kid named Jake Hampton that's going to be unbelievable. We can't replace Josh and we can't replace Zack, but we just have to hope our units as imrpove as a whole.
"On offense we kind of know its Isaac and Ray Ray. Defensively, we have to find our identity. We have a new defensive coordinator."
There's no secret that McCloud is going to be getting the ball well over 20 times a game for Sickles. When the defense starts overloading the box, what adjustments will be made? Quarterback Isaac Holder might be the answer.
"Teams did it last year. Ray is pretty special. Last year we had the lineman so it didn't matter who they put in the box - we would've still made yards. We feel like at Sickles we run the ball and it doesn't matter how many guys you put in there.
"Isaac can throw the ball. Although we're lacking a little bit on the outside receivers, we have a couple of ineligible kids that won't be able to play till next year. Our slot guys are good and we have three good running backs. We'll run triple option if they want to bring everyone in the box. I feel confident in Isaac throwing the football. He can make all the reads and he can run the ball if he has to."
Coach Turner says that at Sickles their expectation every year is to win the state title. What will be the key for that to happen?
"The development of our offensive and defensive line," he answered. "Skillwise - we're as good as were last year or probably better. Offensive and defensive line will be key to see how they develop. We have some good ones, but what are they going to do? Ray Ray is just so special - sometimes we don't even block anybody and he just makes them miss. It's special to have a guy like that."