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LARGO — For the first time in five seasons, Largo came into a regular-season game nearly everyone thought it would lose.
But some things, they never change.
“When people talk like that about Largo,” said defensive end Devin Porter, “we don’t like it.”
In a virtuoso performance by the defense, a revival of the offense and another stellar job of game-planning by arguably the best coaching staff in Pinellas County, the Packers turned the tables on the naysayers in a 23-0 win over Sickles in the Class 4A, District 10 opener for both teams in Largo.
“We’ve had some big games here,” said coach Rick Rodriguez. “This one is right near the top.”
The Packers (3-1, 1-0) won their 22nd straight district game dating to 2005 and are the favorites to make it six straight district championships, despite a roster with six starters that are freshmen or sophomores.
Defensively, coordinator Matt LePain made sure his unit was on point. Linemen Porter, Chris Skukalek, Shawn Barker and Adarius Rayner were outstanding in holding Sickles (3-1) to 63 rushing yards and six first downs.
Cary White, the top returning rusher in Hillsborough County, had 60 on 15 carries, and this season’s leading rusher, Brieann Dollard, had 27.
When there was a small opening, freshman linebacker Francisco Hernandez and sophomores Harry Brown and Derrick Doss closed it quickly.
“I did not realize those linebackers were as good as they were,” said Sickles coach Brian Turner.
Another freshman, running back Jarvis Stewart, was making his first start for what has been a fumble-prone backfield. Stewart ran for a game-high 143 yards on 28 carries, and his 25-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter sealed the victory for the Packers.
Sophomore quarterback Juwan Brown also ran for 100. With his team leading 3-0, Brown guided the Packers on a six-play, 84-yard drive to make it 10-0. He had two 25-yard runs on the drive, and capped it with a 13-yard scoring jaunt four minutes before halftime.
Kicker Morgan Sever added a 37-yard field goal with 1:09 left, and after a botched Sickles punt, booted another from 35 yards at the halftime horn.
Brown also was 6-for-10 for 137 yards . Two of his completions were on third and 11 and third and 13 in the second, killing any Gryphon comeback hopes.