LARGO — Dunedin had a lot of positives this summer with reinforcements arriving in the form of players who were previously ineligible or lukewarm about the program.
But to really signal a turnaround from last year’s 1-9 record, the Falcons needed a win against a bona fide playoff contender.
It almost happened Thursday night.
In two halves of a jamboree, Dunedin lost to host Largo 14-7 and tied Pinellas Park 6-6.
“There were a lot of good things that happened, but we’re not there yet,” coach Matt LePain said.
“The kids are really buying into what we’re doing. They’re listening. They’re working. It’s encouraging.”
LePain, who took over Dunedin in January after three successful seasons at Palm Harbor, inherited a team that lost nine straight and had just about 25 players in May.
The numbers increased after the Falcons played well enough to tie Seminole in the spring game.
Two players who came out this summer, quarterback Argi Radani and receiver Andrew Gordon, provided most of the offense for Dunedin. Radani, a transfer from eight-man Clearwater Academy, threw a pair of touchdown passes to Gordon, who used his 6-foot-7 frame to outleap defenders.
The two connected on an 87-yard touchdown late in the second quarter against Largo. They hooked up on an 18-yard scoring pass late to tie Pinellas Park.
The Falcons might have beaten the Patriots if not for two lost fumbles, Linebacker Nick Hernandez returned one 72 yards for a touchdown.
Dunedin’s defense also came through with big plays, recording two sacks of Largo’s Donavan Hale and forcing three turnovers against Pinellas Park.
Despite the pressure, Hale still threw two touchdowns against Dunedin. The first was a 44-yarder to Jonathan Crawford off of a fake punt. The other was a 12-yarder during which Hale scrambled to his left before shuffling the ball sideways to Dakarai Allen in the end zone.
In the final half, Largo beat Pinellas Park 7-6. Crawford scored on a 6-yard run, and Taj Taylor made the extra point. The Patriots rallied with a 1-yard touchdown run by Oscee Calhoun, but they were stuffed by the Packers on a two-point conversion run.
Crawford sealed the game with an interception in the final 10 seconds.
“We needed that kind of performance,” Crawford said. “Pinellas Park was talking all summer about how they wanted to play us. I was pumped and wanted to come out and make some plays.
“It was encouraging for us going into the season.”
Contact Bob Putnam at email@example.com. Follow @BobbyHomeTeam.