1. Largo coaches had me off the Packer bandwagon early in the spring because of concerns about their offensive linemen. I said, but you guys have all these 6-foot-1, 180-pound athletes, and they countered with, "Yeah, but that's also the same size of our offensive linemen." But consider me back on board. Heck, I predicted two years ago that Largo would win a state title in 2012, might as well ride it out. And with the uncertainty at Armwood, and what I saw Friday, I feel a little better about that prediction (though I suspect Hillsborough has something to say about all of this.).
But still, the Packers have onlysix guys on their spring roster weighing more than 200 pounds, and one of them is running back and linebacker Harry Brown. That won't be good come playoff time against anyone.
2. Reggie Brown, Donovan Hale and Jonathan Crawford are about as good a trio of freshmen you will find on any one team. They will all be special players. Throw in super sophomores like Johnny Williams, Raheem Harvey, Cordell Hudson and Frankie Hernandez, and you have a really young and talented team that is going to be good for the next few years. If coach Rick Rodriguez is planning on retiring anytime soon, his youngsters are going to make it awfully hard.
In fact, Largo listed 56 players on its spring roster, and 22 were freshmen (will be sophomores in the fall) while 24 were sophomores (to be juniors). Will that hurt the Packers having only 10 seniors in the fall? Not when half of them are named Juwan Brown, Derrick Doss, Harry Brown, Claxton Boykins and Reggie Moore.
3. A recruiter from a Division I-A school in the Southeast told me he thought Largo had seven legitimate Division I players competing Friday night.
4. In one majestic nine-play stretch Friday night, Largo had a touchdown run by Harry Brown, forced an intentional grounding, the defense tackled a runner for a loss, Boykins had a sack, Hernandez blocked a punt that Hudson fell on for a score, Hernandez stripped a kickoff returner of the ball which Largo recovered, Doss ran 42 yards for a touchdown, the defense stuffed Clearwater running back Adam Harris for a no gain, and Hudson returned an interception for a touchdown.
Boykins, by the way, is a former youth league legend running back, but coaches joked that he ate his way to fullback this offseason, and then the defensive line, so he started at defensive tackle Friday. Though only 5-7 and 165 pounds, Boykins pretty much had his way up front, using his quickness to get two sacks and force pressure on a number of other plays. He also played some running back, breaking off a nice 10-yard run before fumbling as he was crossing the goal line for a touchdown.
5. I would be remiss in not mentioning Clearwater quarterback Jordan Leston, who was sacked 10 times and harried every time he dropped back, and Harris. The duo kept plugging along despite a large amount of punishment, and showed some great heart out there. Largo defensive line coach Eric Wilson, who played for Largo coach Rick Rodriguez when the two were at Clearwater years ago, actually sought out Leston afterward to laud him for his effort. And in a show of class, he encouraged Leston to work hard all summer, listen to his coaches and make his teammates better. Bravo, Coach, bravo.
6. All that said, no one really felt they got much out of the Packers' 61-6 victory. It was 40-0 after one quarter, and Packer coaches had to tell their guys to stop returning kicks. I am not attempting humor when I say the Packers would have absolutely scored 100 or more had they kept playing full throttle. It was a mismatch of epic proportions, and Rodriguez -- he used to coach linemen at Clearwater under current Tornadoes coach and friend Tom Bostic -- actually looked pained during the game. He truly felt bad.
But in the fourth quarter, he said the yearly game with Clearwater, a rival, had run its course. The past two meetings, including the fall classic nine months ago, have resulted in a 113-13 scoring edge for the Packers. It's no longer competitive. And just as important, however, is the need to make money off the gate, and this rivalry isn't selling anymore. The Packer fans may have been outnumbered by the Clearwater fans, but neither side was more than one-thirds full. If even that.
Rodriguez asked me what I thought about playing Pasco, and I squealed in delight. Squealed! Ideally, Rodriguez would like to take on Countryside in the spring and Pasco in the fall. The Pirates already play rivals Zephyrhills or Hernando, so I don't see that changing, but it would be a great game as both teams are always loaded with exciting athletes to watch and match up well. Not to mention getting two of the best, if not unsung, head coaches in Tampa Bay together.
There. Seed planted.
7. Rodriguez had players doing up-downs during the game for not being ready to enter the game when they were supposed to, and then right in the middle of his postgame speech in the locker room, stopped and punished a player with gassers (I have no idea what the kid did) before continuing on with his speech, like a parent reaching back and smacking his kid in the car while continuing to drive.
8. Coaches will use anything to fire up their players. I'm standing there with special teams coach Drew Heuertz and we're shaking our heads at the 40-0 score, and I jab him by saying, half-jokingly, that the only thing Clearwater really had going was that its kick returners were probably averaging 30 yards a return. He looked at me, turned and walked away. Turns out, he went right to his unit, which was getting ready to go onto the field, and told them, "It's a 40-0 game, and all the guy from the newspaper is talking about is how many yards we're giving up on kick returns." The Packers then went out and gang-tackled Clearwater on a short return.
Heuertz came back over, smiling, and said thanks.
9. Indiana signed Largo lineman Adarius Rayner two years ago, and already has offers in to Harvey and Hernandez. The guy doing that recruiting? Former Clearwater All-America offensive lineman Greg Frey, who was coached by Rodriguez in high school and is now the run game coordinator and offensive line coach for the Hoosiers.
10. Remember Ryan Eppes? The former Largo quarterback went to USF as a preferred walk-on, but is now a linebacker after putting on about 40 pounds of muscle. The transformation is striking.