LARGO — Largo coach Rick Rodriguez had one request as the locker room filed out following the Packers’ loss against East Lake on Friday night.
“Don’t mention the suspended kids,” he said. “No excuses.”
It wouldn’t matter.
East Lake wasn’t accepting any excuses anyway.
Using a powerful running game to gash the Packers up the middle and doing just enough on the outside to keep the chains moving, the Eagles earned a 22-0 victory at Largo.
Then they celebrated afterward like it was any other victory.
“From a players standpoint, I think that’s very disappointing (that Largo was missing guys),” said George Campbell, who had two of his team’s six sacks. “Now that gives them something to have an excuse about not having their best two players playing. But you still have to come out and play. That just gives them a excuse to say why they lost.”
East Lake ran for 246 yards and held Largo to 30 yards rushing in recording the shutout.
There was no mistaking that for three quarters, it was a much closer game than it should have been.
The Packers were without running back Jarvis Stewart and middle linebacker Frankie Hernandez — both USF oral commitments — after suspensions kept them out of school Friday.
And in the second quarter, quarterback Donavan Hale went down with a right ankle injury and did not return.
Still, at halftime, it was only 3-0 as East Lake settled for a Daniel LaCamera 53-yard field goal.
The Eagles (2-0) outgained Largo 168-13 on the ground through two quarters. But East Lake quarterback Jake Hudson threw an interception to Jonathan Crawford, and the Eagles were stopped inside the Largo 5 by a Packers defense that bent all half but never broke.
“I look up, and it’s only 3-0. And I’m going, 'What the heck man?’ ” East Lake coach Bob Hudson said. “It seems, seems like we’ve been down there all night.”
But it wasn’t until the second half that the Eagles started to capitalize on offense — helped by a pair of Devin Abraham interceptions — as its big offensive line, led by Michigan oral commitment Mason Cole, wore down the smaller Packers.
Weston Fordham rushed for a touchdown midway through the third quarter, and Artavis Scott and Drew Couto scored in the fourth quarter.
Scott (14 carries for 98 yards), Fordham (17 for 87) and Couto (10 for 82) powered the East Lake attack.
The Packers defense held on as long as it could, but the Eagles had too much firepower.
Rodriguez said there were no excuses, and his players didn’t make any afterward.
“It was crazy, but we had to step up,” said Crawford, who played some running back for the first time since youth league. “We did lots of talking at practice; lots of extra defense and extra-long practices. And we played as hard as we could. It was crazy.”
John C. Cotey can be reached at email@example.com.