We have reached the midway point of the high school football season, and if the second half is anything like the first, it should be an exciting ending. We take a look back and a little look ahead:
Juwan Brown, QB, Largo: Brown has been able to show off his entire skill set this season, emerging as the county’s premier dual-threat quarterback. He has thrown for more than 700 yards, rushed for more than 300 and accounted for 10 touchdowns. That’s not all. On defense, Brown leads the team in interceptions with two. He is the reason the Packers are undefeated and poised to challenge Hillsborough County teams, including Armwood, in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Harry Brown, LB, Largo: He may not have eye-popping numbers (38 tackles, three sacks), but Brown is a disruptive force and the leader of the area’s best group of linebackers, which include Frankie Hernandez and Derrick Doss. Against Countryside, Brown spent most of the night in the backfield and played a big role in the Packers ending the Cougars’ 27-game regular-season win streak.
The Pack is back: Largo had been the dominant team of the decade with consecutive state semifinal appearances in 2007-08 and seven straight district titles. But the Packers had to relinquish their role at the top after three straight losses to Countryside from 2009-11. Three weeks ago, the Packers ended that streak with a convincing 28-7 victory. With a manageable second-half schedule, Largo has a good shot at going undefeated in the regular season.
Injuries: St. Petersburg Catholic’s Ryan Green was lost for the season due to a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Green, a Florida State commit, was on his way to a special senior season. He gained 196 yards on five carries and scored four touchdowns in the opener against Sarasota Out-of-Door Academy. But four days later, Green complained of shoulder stiffness and discovered the injury. It was a big blow to Green and the Barons, who were hoping for a playoff season.
Dixie Hollins lost both running backs, Demondre Lambert and Kabriel Jackson, to knee injuries in the first week. A few weeks later, Gibbs’ Maurice Hall was shot in the stomach during a drive by shooting. Hall recovered but will not play the rest of the season. Those two teams were thin to begin with and the injuries hampered what could have been good seasons.
Five top plays
1. Largo engineers a last-second comeback to beat Bradenton Southeast in season opener: Trailing 14-7 with 1:10 remaining, Largo goes 70 yards in eight plays to score. As time expired, quarterback Juwan Brown hit Reggie Campbell for a 17-yard touchdown. Then the Packers go for two, and when Jarvis Stewart takes a direct snap and scores, the Packers pull it out 15-14. They haven’t lost since.
2. Northeast stays undefeated with dramatic second-half comeback against Tarpon Springs: The Vikings trailed 31-7 at halftime. By five minutes remaining in the game, Northeast led 41-37. The key play was when Ryan Davis hit Keith Harrington on a screen pass. Harrington did the rest, running 78 yards for the eventual winner. The Vikings are an improbable 5-0.
3. Northeast, Part II: A week before the Tarpon game, St. Petersburg was driving on Northeast and trailing 22-17. The Green Devils went from their own 11 to Northeast’s 10. On fourth and goal from the 10, Jalin Hubbard tipped away a Corey D’Angelo pass in the end zone to preserve the lead. It’s been that kind of season so far for both teams.
4. Seminole wins! Clinging to a 22-16 lead, Dixie Hollins had one final shot from the 21-yard line. Drew Boylson hit Dovante Harrington near the end zone, but he was tackled a yard short to end the game.
5. Osceola blocks a St. Petersburg field goal: Trailing 13-10 in the final three minutes, Sean Covington gets his 49-yard attempt blocked by Osceola to preserve the lead. It was the Warriors’ first win of the season and kept the Green Devils reeling.
Five most surprising teams
1. Northeast: Winners of four games all of last season, the Vikings are 5-0. District foe Countryside awaits tonight.
Largo: Yes, the Packers were going to be good this season, but this good? They blew out Countryside and East Lake and beat a very good Bradenton Southeast.
3. Lakewood: Granted, the Spartans have had a soft schedule so far, but outscoring opponents 184-9? We’ll see about Lakewood in the second half of the season.
4. Palm Harbor University: After losing nearly every skill player from last season, many wondered how the Hurricanes would be able to match last year’s success. But after five games, PHU is 3-2, same as last season.
5. Shorecrest: The Chargers look recharged under new coach Dave Moore. They are 3-2 at the midway point and should be competitive the rest of the season.
Five best games in the second half
1. Clearwater Central Catholic at Berkeley Prep, Oct. 19: If the Marauders can snap a four-year losing streak in this series they could win the Class 2A, District 5 title.
2. Robinson at Lakewood, Oct. 26: By knocking off a bona fide state title contender, the Spartans can either wrap up Class 5A, District 8 title or keep playoff hopes alive.
3. Countryside at Pinellas Park, Oct. 26: Both made the playoffs last year but one could be on the outside looking in with a loss thanks to the emergence of Northeast.
4. Largo at Tarpon Springs, Nov. 2: Toughest game left on both teams’ schedule will determine pecking order in Class 6A, District 7.
5. Palm Harbor University at East Lake, Nov. 2: Just like last year, this game should determine the winner and runnerup in Class 8A, District 7.
Rodney Page and Bob Putnam, Times staff writers