We’re breaking down a football district a day. Today:
Class 6A, District 7
Must-see game: Oct. 18, Largo at Venice: The last time these teams met was 2005, when former Packers standout Dexter McCluster (now with the Kansas City Chiefs) ran wild to help his team to an upset in the region semifinals. Both teams have consistently made the playoffs and are in the same district for the first time. The winner here will most likely win the district title.
Three story lines
The Largo legacy: The Packers have won eight straight district titles, the longest streak in Pinellas County. With the bulk of its skill players returning, Largo is in prime position to make it nine in a row. But the Packers are thinking beyond their district. After hardly being tested in the regular season last year, Largo bulked up its schedule with nondistrict games against playoff teams such as East Lake, Jesuit, Lakewood and Northeast.
A Pinellas County pest: Venice has made the playoffs six straight seasons and has made a habit of knocking off Pinellas County teams in the playoffs with wins against St. Petersburg (2010), Countryside (’11) and Pinellas Park (’12) the past three seasons.
Better balance: Three of the four teams in the district made the playoffs last season. Osceola, which was runnerup to Largo last year, has a solid running game. And Dixie Hollins appears to be improved after limping through an injury-riddled winless season last year.
Players to watch
Donavan Hale, QB, Largo: The two-sport star has big shoes to fill, replacing first-team all-Pinellas County quarterback Juwan Brown. With his scrambling ability and a cannon arm, Hale should be able to produce big numbers given the Packers’ surplus of receivers.
Kabriel Jackson, RB, Dixie Hollins: The junior missed his sophomore season after injuring his knee in the first game of the year. He returned for spring practices and will likely be the Rebels’ top running option this season.
Quadarius Patterson, ATH, Osceola: The Warriors’ most versatile offensive weapon will be used mostly as a running back but could line up as a quarterback to give Osceola a running threat at the position.
Jarvis Stewart, RB, Largo: The USF recruit rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season and will be counted on again to be the bread-and-butter back. His ability to gain yards on the ground will take the pressure off Hale.
4. Dixie Hollins
Photo: Largo's Donavan Hale