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Fabulous as freshmen, still stellar as seniors

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Mon. August 27, 2012 | Bob Putnam | Email

Fabulous as freshmen, still stellar as seniors

To kick off the first week of the football regular season, we’re taking a pigskin spin on “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Today’s installments for something old will look at coaches who have been around for a while or senior players who have logged several seasons with their respective programs.

For much of the 2009 season Largo’s future was already on display.

The Packers were coming off consecutive state semifinal appearances and had to reload after graduating several big-time stars.

Three in that heralded freshman class — quarterback Juwan Brown, running back/linebacker Harry Brown and running back/linebacker Derrick Doss — not only played, they started. They moved on to key roles and helped put their stamp on the program.

Now, nearly all the big plays, along with the expectations of a fan base, are on their shoulders.

The trio is used to success. They have been part of Largo’s streak of seven straight district titles. And they are used to playing together, going back to the youth leagues at Largo when they were 7 years old.

But Juwan Brown, Harry Brown and Doss have yet to reach the state semifinals. The farthest they have gone is the region semifinals their freshman season.

“Everyone wants us to win, but I don’t think we’ve put any more pressure on ourselves,” Juwan Brown said. “We just want to go out, play well and try to get as far in the playoffs as we can.”

When they arrived as freshmen, the Packers were in transition. Largo needed to find a starting quarterback and tailback. To make matters worse, fullback Sean Holte went down with a season-ending knee injury. So Juwan Brown and Doss were thrust into the starting lineup. Harry Brown made it there by the end of the season.

“Normally, you don’t want to start freshmen unless you have to,” coach Rick Rodriguez said. “That’s always been our policy. But these guys were all special. Once they got here everyone had us pegged to win a state championship.”

Brown threw for 531 yards that season. Doss and Harry Brown made more of an impact on defense. They all contributed in Largo’s upset over Hillsborough in the first round of the playoffs.

Juwan Brown, an escape artist, battled through injuries in 2010 and had modest numbers last season. But he appears ready for a breakout performance this season, especially after completing 16-of-17 passes for more than 200 yards and five touchdowns in a little more than a half against Bradenton Bayshore last week.

“I knew I had a chance to start right away,” he said. “The game was real fast back then. But I became more comfortable after that. I think we have the guys where we can open up the offense this season.”

Doss has been the ultimate utility player, lining up as a linebacker, running back and kick returner. Last season, he had five returns for scores and was the team’s second-leading tackler. Harry Brown is a ferocious tackler who led the team in sacks with eight.

They are the veterans now on a young team full of promise.

“These guys are our leaders,” Rodriguez said. “They have the speed, the command of the game and the maturity to do something big this season. There are a lot of variables, and injuries play a part in that. But those three guys will give us a chance to go pretty far this season.”

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