TAMPA — With the score tied at 14-14 with 54 seconds left in the game and facing third down and nine from the Titan’s 22-yard line, the Gryphons turned to one of the best prep football players in the country, senior running back Ray Ray McCloud, who sprinted around left end for the game winning score to give Sickles its second straight Class 7A District 7 championship.
McCloud finished with 37 carries for 250 yards and two touchdowns and also played snaps at quarterback and cornerback.
This 21-14 victory gives Sickles (6-3) a 4-1 district record and Tampa Bay Tech (5-4) a 3-2 district record and the runner-up spot based on their head-to-head win over Gaither last week which also finished 3-2 in district play.
Sickles jumped to a 7-0 lead early in second quarter after senior cornerback Nate Ferguson blocked a TBT punt which was recovered by Logan Braswell at the Titans 3-yard line and following a penalty senior quarterback Isaac Holder hit junior wide receiver Trey Fullwood for an 8-yard touchdown pass. Gryphons would extend the lead to 14 after a 70-yard drive midway in second quarter which included runs of 20 and 31 yards by McCloud before Ray Ray would score from 1-yard out.
Tampa Bay Tech then drove 71 yards with senior quarterback Deon Cain hitting senior Quan Brown with a 48-yard touchdown pass to pull within 14-7 before half.
After a scoreless third quarter, Titans freshman defensive back Darren Turner returned an interception 8 yards for the tying score early in the fourth quarter. Sickles would then drive the ball twice mainly using McCloud who rushed for 95 yards in the final quarter including the 22-yard winning run on Gryphons last drive of the night.
Sickles defense sacked Cain four times, including two sacks by junior linebacker Cameron Miller who also added two tackle-for-losses.
Gryphons’ senior tight end/punter, Dante Tedesco, had 4 punts for over a 40 yard average including a 59-yard punt that pinned Titans back to their own 1-yard line in first quarter and a second quarter punt to TBT’s 13-yard line.
Junior Safety Marchalo Judge lead the Titans defense with three tackle-for-losses and senior defensive end Sam Felton had a Sack and a quarterback pressure.
Sickles plays at Alonso (3-6) next week and Tampa Bay Tech travels to Hillsborough HS (8-1).