ST. PETERSBURG — Jarvis Stewart’s 38th and final carry in Largo’s showdown against Lakewood was indicative of the way he played the entire game.
With only a minute left and the outcome well in hand, Stewart burst up the middle and carried most of the Spartans defense for an 8-yard gain.
Fitting because for most of the night, Stewart carried the Packers on his back in a 20-6 win Friday.
Stewart ran for 205 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yarder. Not only did he get 38 of his team’s 45 rushes, he also played the entire game at safety.
“Any time you have a back like that, you’ve got to give him the ball,” Largo coach Rick Rodriguez said. “Feed him the ball. It’s a no-brainer.”
That’s not to say the Packers were a one-man team. Quarterback Donavan Hale returned after missing two games with a right ankle sprain and went 14-of-21 for 193 yards.
On Largo’s first drive, he hit Raheem Harvey for 39 yards to the Lakewood 31. On the next play, Hale ran untouched down the right sideline to make it 7-0.
“I thought Donavan looked good after missing those games,” Rodriguez said. “We spread the offense out really well and made some good adjustments.”
Lakewood (3-2) stayed close and scored late in the first quarter. Quarterback Ryan Davis started the three-play drive with runs of 26 and 34 yards. After a penalty, Davis hit Darquez Watson on a 21-yard pass that made it 7-6. The extra point was blocked.
Stewart gave Largo (4-1) some breathing room in the second quarter with his 80-yard touchdown. (The extra point was no good.)
“The line opened up a hole, and the fullback followed through,” Stewart said. “All I had to do was follow right behind him. I had to break a few tackles. But after that, the hole was there. From there, it’s just don’t get caught. Never get caught.”
The Spartans lost Davis late in the first half. On third and 17, he was hit hard as he launched a pass. He did not return and was replaced by Jocqui Ellison.
“(Davis) was cleared to go,” Lakewood coach Cory Moore said. “But this isn’t a district game. He can get ready for Boca Ciega (next week). We’re not going to risk anything. We want to be ready for those games that let you play in the postseason.”
Lakewood struggled in the second half. Its first three possessions ended with a punt, interception and lost fumble. After the interception, Largo went eight plays and scored on a 1-yard run by Stewart.
The Spartans had a chance to close the gap in the fourth quarter. An 11-play drive stalled on the Largo 6. And after a 6-yard punt gave Lakewood the ball at the Largo 16, it again failed to score.
“We had some great stops down there,” Rodriguez said. “I thought Cordell Hudson made three big-time stops down there. Defense came up big.”
After stopping Lakewood for the second time, the Packers clinched the game by letting Stewart do his thing.
“It’s a lot of carries for me,” he said. “But, hey, this is Largo. We run the ball.”