Monday, January 4, 2010

Preps: Gaither, Sickles face important district test

TAMPA – The top seed in the district tournament, and rivalry bragging rights, will be on the line on Tuesday night as Gaither plays host to Sickles in a key Class 5A-District 9 boys game.

Both the Gryphons and Cowboys enter the contest with 4-0-0 district records. With every other team in the district having at least two defeats, a victory would appear to create what would appear to be an easier path to the region playoffs three weeks from now when the district tournament begins.

Of course, with the No.6 seed Cowboys having knocked off the No.2 seed Gryphons 1-0 in last season’s district playoffs, Gaither coach Eric Sims pointed out that seeding can mean very little when it comes to predicting results. That said, he believes Tuesday night’s game is one that will help prepare his side for the postseason.

“I’ve seen Sickles play a few times, and they’re very experienced,” Sims said. “Games like this prepare you for the end of the year because of the high level. It’s exciting to play games like this.”

Gaither has held the upper hand in recent meetings between the two sides, with the Cowboys holding a 4-0-1 record against the Gryphons since the 2006-07 season. That hasn’t been lost on Sickles players, who are eager to create a different outcome this time around.

“Very big game, definitely,” Sickles goalkeeper Brandon Stout said. “We’ve always had some trouble with Gaither, but this year is completely different. We’re a lot stronger than what we were in the past couple of years, a lot more determined, more focused and we have a lot more skill.

“Gaither is a very good team, they have a very good goalie, good forwards, it’s going to be a pretty tough game.”

The critical match-up will likely involve Stout, and the Gryphons defense led by center back Gil Davis. Sickles has conceded 10 goals in 16 games this season which will provide a test for Gaither’s Jordan See, who has 13 goals, and the rest of the Cowboys attack. Sims was full of praise for Davis, who is headed to the University of Tampa’s soccer program next season.

“It’s going to be difficult for Jordan because Gil Davis is such a good defender,” Sims said. “Gil Davis is one of the best defenders in the state, by far, so that’s definitely a challenge for Jordan, and if you can get by Davis, you’ve got Stout who is on fire as well.”

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