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5A football: Pair of picks prove harmful to Packers

FORT LAUDERDALE — Two plays. More accurately, two picks.

Largo will have the entire offseason to ponder how the outcome of its Class 5A state semifinal against St. Thomas Aquinas could have changed had just two plays gone differently.

Two Aquinas interceptions ultimately led to the Packers' 35-14 loss.

"That's stuff you've got to overcome in football. It happens," coach Rick Rodriguez said. "We came back in the second half and scored, and I was fine with it. But their kids made great plays and stopped us. My hat's off to their team. They'll probably win a state championship."

A disastrous start — Aquinas scored on its second possession while the Largo offense had minus-3 yards on its first two drives — had the Packers reeling until the offense finally started to show signs of life.

With its fourth possession, Largo moved the ball to the Aquinas 13 after consecutive 11- and 19-yard runs by Marcel Durham, who left the game at that point with an ankle injury.

On third and 8 from the Aquinas 11, quarterback Ryan Eppes attempted a fade pass into the end zone for Mike Lang, but the Raiders' Cody Riggs skied over Lang to make the pick, somehow keeping a foot inbounds along the back of the end zone while maintaining possession to deny Largo from tying it.

"(That play) killed the momentum, but stuff like that happens," said Largo's Mike Marry, who gained 47 yards and scored two touchdowns and had five solo tackles on defense.

Aquinas scored to go up 14-0 on the ensuing drive.

Largo had an opportunity to score before halftime, moving the ball down the field with quick out patterns that had the Packers near midfield with 1:30 remaining. Then Aquinas defensive lineman Dylan Drake made perhaps the play of the game, jumping up to knock down an Eppes pass and landing with the ball cradled in his hands.

"That was just an outstanding play by him because most D-linemen can't get up," Marry said. "They usually just knock it down, but he caught it."

Aquinas' touchdown with 32 seconds left in the half gave the Raiders a seemingly insurmountable 21-0 lead. The Packers matched Aquinas' 14 second-half points with 14 of their own.

"The second half, the kids, they came to play," Rodriguez said. "We made a couple plays and we scored. Stopped them and scored and ran out of time. We needed another quarter maybe."

5A football: Pair of picks prove harmful to Packers 12/13/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 15, 2008 2:42pm]
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