LARGO — Donavan Hale possesses the size (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) and skills (elusiveness, strong arm) that make him one of the most electrifying quarterbacks in the bay area.
The Largo senior’s greatest talent is one that can’t be taught: the ability to turn a busted play into a positive one. It is one of the main reasons first-year coach Marcus Paschal had the offense tailored to Hale’s strengths.
“We just want to put the ball in Donavan’s hands and have him make plays,” Paschal said.
But every time Hale eludes the rush or takes off on a wild scramble, there are some coaches at the school who have a few anxious moments.
“I know I hold my breath whenever Donavan takes off running,” Largo basketball coach Phil Price said of his best player. “I just don’t want him to get hurt because I know how valuable he is in both sports.”
Hale spent most of last season bruised, bandaged or beat up in both sports. Therefore, all prognostications about the Packers’ success this season come equipped with a disclaimer about the health of their biggest star, bringing new meaning to the term make-or-break season.
“I have to try to stay healthy, that’s one of the biggest goals all year,” Hale said.
Hale’s battle with injuries started in last season’s game against East Lake. Hale sprained his ankle in the first half and watched Largo lose 22-0, snapping the Packers’ 15-game regular-season win streak and marking the first time the program had been shut out in more than a decade.
The injury forced Hale to miss two games. He came back and led Largo to a district title, but his ankle never fully healed. Then he sprained his other ankle in basketball.
“It was tough because I kept trying to push, but I could get back to being 100 percent,” Hale said.
Tonight comes the rematch against the Eagles, one that Hale has been looking forward to.
“I’m just glad that I’m healthy and have another shot,” he said.
Hale has one of the deepest receiving corps in the area with Dakarai Allen, Jonathan Crawford and Brandon Drayton. They’ve played well so far, cruising to a 40-0 victory over Northeast in the season opener.
East Lake (1-0), led by a veteran defense, poses a challenge. Last year, East Lake pressured Hale, forcing him to make plays on the run before he went down with an ankle injury.
To make sure he stays in one piece this season, Hale worked hard in the weight room to make his body strong enough to absorb the punishment he takes as a dual-threat quarterback.
“Donavan’s always been in the weight room and taken care of his body,” Paschal said. “But I think now that he’s in his final season and his high school career is that much closer to ending, he’s taking everything to another level.
“I know we need him. He’s the total package. If he can stay healthy he’ll put up some big numbers and get us to where we want to go.”
Contact Bob Putnam at email@example.com. Follow @BobbyHomeTeam.