Largo's playoff appearance last year was short on games. The Packers were bounced from the Class 6A region quarterfinals by Armwood.
This year, Largo wants its playoff-type experience to last more than a week.
Try the entire season.
Most of the county football schedules were finished on Wednesday. Largo has been sure to mark their calendars. Playoff teams from a year ago are on tap the opening week.
And pretty much every week after.
The schedule, which coach Rick Rodriguez fashioned to provide few automatic victories this season, will be a bear. The Packers have five games against teams that made the playoffs from last season. That doesn’t include a regular-season finale against Countryside, which would have made the playoffs if it did not have to forfeit games because of an ineligible player.
And it could get tougher.
Largo joined Countryside and Lakewood as the three county public school teams that have two open dates to fill. Each is allowed to schedule games against non-county opponents. Rodriguez said he is trying to fill those dates with games against Miami Jackson and possibly Bradenton Manatee. Rodriguez said he initially had a game scheduled against Pasco but was unable to pull it together.
The Packers will open the season with Northeast. There also are games against Lakewood, East Lake, Venice and Osceola.
Rodriguez made things tough by design because by the end of the year, his players will be ready for anything.
“These are the kind of games that will make us better,” Rodriguez said.
Last season Largo waltzed through the regular season, going undefeated and beating each county opponent on its schedule by at least four touchdowns. Most of the games were so lopsided the Packers sat their starters midway through the third quarter.
Rodriguez said the lack of challenging games down the stretch hurt Largo in its opening-round playoff loss to Armwood.
Largo is in the same region as Armwood, as well as Hillsborough and Robinson.
“We need to be ready if we’re going to play those teams and beat them in the playoffs,” Rodriguez said. “We need to schedule as many games against strong teams as we can.”
Other key games include a season opener between former district rivals East Lake and Palm Harbor University, which are now in different classifications. And season finale between Lakewood and Northeast will be played at Progress Energy Field for the third annual Mayor’s Cup.