It may have only been Week Zero, but don’t you dare tell that to anybody that showed up to watch rivals Gaither and Sickles battle for bragging rights in NW Hillsborough County. Don’t you dare tell that to the players and coaching staffs from each side either. Sickles used a relentless pass rush and efficient mix of their characteristic triple-option and new school shotgun on their way to a convincing defeat of the Cowboys 17-2.
The Gryphons spoiled the debut of Gaither HC Jason Stokes and were led on the offensive side by Junior QB Nate Mills’ 2 TD’s. Mills was starting in place of the injured Lee Myers and was more than adequate in moving the chains for Sickles through the air. Mills scored with his legs on a 2-yd rush and with his arm on a well-timed slant from 19 yards out to De’Andre Mathis. The running attack of LaDondra Crittenden and Jared O’Donoghue also helped wear down a Gaither front 3 DL that averages 6’4″ 220lbs.
The game had all the markings of a “preseason” game though with both teams amassing well over 300 yards in penalties combined. That didn’t stop Sickles and Head Coach Brian Turner from making a statement and setting the tone for the season however.”We dominated that football game tonight. We absolutely dominated them.” said an ecstatic Turner who was very quick to point out that it’s no longer summer and that the “real” season is upon us, referring to the successful offseason that the Cowboys experienced on the shorts-and-shirts circuit that is 7-on7.
“We had heard and read a lot of stuff about them being 7-on-7 champions and this and that; well I told my team 7-0n-7 is not 11-0n-11. We’re an 11-on-11 football team. Our kids are competitors and don’t need any extra motivation.” Turner also pointed out that his best players on the field were all underclassmen too. Sophomore DE/OLB Josh Black (6’2″ 195lbs) was harassing both Gaither QB’s all night.
It was hard for Gaither to get any rhythm, especially on the QB/Center snap. By the time Sophomore QB Alex McGough would pick the ball off the ground, Black was already upfield and forcing the QB’s out of the pocket. Turner was glowing at the idea of Black’s performance tonight. “Coach told me it was going to be Josh Black’s coming out party tonight. And he was right.”
Gaither did have some bright spots with their front 3 and LB Josh Scarberry. Their defense could not overcome the sputtering offense and was on the field for a large portion of the game. In the end, it appeared that the Cowboys simply wore down. Returning QB Shug Oyegunle was trying to get things going but was having the same success rate as McGough although both of Gaither’s legitimate TD threats came at the expense of some quality throws by McGough.
Like most rivalries, there was a bit of drama at the end when Gaither did not greet Sickles at midfield following the game. This came on the heels of a Sickles passing TD with 0:19 seconds left. Gaither had called a timeout and that’s when Sickles decided to take a shot in the endzone and executed it with precision.
Both teams will open the season with NW Hillsborough rivalries. Sickles travels to Steinbrenner and Gaither will look to get the ship righted against Alonso.