tampabay.com

Back in the saddle

Pat O'Brien returns for a second shot at leading the Gryphons to greatness.

By ROD GIPSON
Published August 25, 2006


TAMPA - At Sickles, what was old is new again

After a two-year stint in private business, Pat O'Brien is back at the helm of the Gryphons. And despite seven wins in 30 games during his first stint at the school, O'Brien is excited about the Gryphons' potential.

"You can always look back at what you did wrong, that's hindsight," O'Brien said. "But it's rare you get a second chance to get things corrected."

And, as Sickles begins its' 10th season of football, there's plenty to correct.

Sickles is coming off a 2-8 season that saw the Gryphons start the season with six straight losses, get shut out in three of those games and be held to seven points or fewer in 8-of-10 games.

But with a core group of returning seniors and the Gryphons' recent trend of at least being competitive against Class 5A, District 6 foes Chamberlain, Alonso and King, O'Brien is optimistic about his second time around.

"It's not a quick fix," O'Brien said. "But these kids have made tremendous gains, they are challenging themselves and they've set their goals high."

THROUGH THE AIR: With its telephone-booth offense (a formation so tight, 11 players could fit in a phone booth, O'Brien said), don't expect junior quarterback A.J. Bose to light up the passing lanes. But in tight ends Kyle Blum, Joey Loving and Steve Wertepny, Bose will have capable targets.

ON THE GROUND: Bose will spend most of his time handing off to wingbacks Josh Mendez and Terrence Steward, a transfer from Alonso. Mike Berta and Aaron Moses will line up as fullbacks in O'Brien's offense that relies on precision and quickness. The Gryphons offensive line, which averages 6 feet and 260 pounds, is anchored by center Mike Mastermaker, though the other starters all have varsity experience.

DEFENSE: With most of its returning seniors on defense, how well this unit performs may determine how successful this season is.

Playing a 3-3-5 defensive formation, Adam Downing and Taylor Drane are the most experienced linemen. They will be backed up by linebackers Ricky Farias (a senior) and juniors Andrew McNeil and Andrew Early.

Julani Dixon, Will Joseph and Daniel Johns cement a secondary that will rotate players in and out.

"Our defense is going to have to lead us," O'Brien said. "But we feel we can compete. We're playing playoff teams and teams at that level on our schedule. That's a challenge but our guys are eager."