It’s only the fourth week of the season, but five straight years of district titles are on the line Friday night for Largo.
The Packers host favored Sickles, with only one option if they want to make it six straight titles.
“Our players know what they have to do,” said Largo coach Rick Rodriguez. “They have seen what’s happened in this district. There is no room for error.”
With only four teams in Class 4A-10, the room for error gets cut in half for the loser of tonight’s game.
If you want to win the district, you have to be perfect.
If you want to go to the playoffs as runnerup, you’re allowed to lose only once.
For the 2-1 Packers, they find themselves in an unfamiliar spot, as underdogs, and rather sizable ones at that.
They have scored just a single touchdown each of the past two weeks, though they managed to win last week 7-6 over Gibbs.
“Our defense is bailing us out right now,” Rodriguez said. “Our offense has been struggling. Too many mistakes. I really think we should be 3-0 right now.”
Too many fumbles. Too many wasted drives. More than a dozen turnovers in all, including three interceptions by sophomore quarterback Juwan Brown, who has yet to throw a touchdown pass.
The Packers, already the babies of the district, will get even younger tonight as freshman Jarvis Stewart starts in the backfield, replacing promising sophomore Claxton Boykins, who will try to work out his fumbling issues on junior varsity.
Defensively, Rodriguez has been pleased, though defensive coordinator Matt Lepain sees lots of room for improvement.
“Everyone seems happy with the defense, but I see things on tape Saturdays I’m not happy with,” said Lepain, who returned only one full-time starter from last season. “We need to be more consistent. We’ll make some stops, but then let up a big play.”
The Packers defense will face a stiff challenge from the Gryphons, last year’s district runnerup who boast a devastating ground game.
Though running backs Cary White and Hillsborough County leader Brieann Dollard are banged up, both could play tonight.
Last year, they ran all over the Packers defense, wearing them down. But Sickles’ upset hopes were dashed by a rash of fumbles.
Rodriguez is hoping the same fate doesn’t befall his Packers tonight.