LARGO — What looked to be a nail biter between Countryside and Largo at halftime morphed into the Marcel Durham show after the break.
Durham, a senior running back for Largo, had five touchdown runs and gained 174 yards on 25 carries to spur the Packers to a 42-17 victory in Friday's Class 5A region quarterfinal.
"I've never had five touchdowns before," Durham said. "I can't do it without my team. We're sticking together. We've been doing it all year, but it's just like a dart. Once you find that spot, boom, you've got it."
Durham's third touchdown rush and first of the second half came with Largo holding onto a 14-10 lead. The Packers (10-1) took the opening kickoff and marched from its 30-yard line to the Countryside 11 in 12 plays before Durham carried a host of would-be tacklers into the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown.
After Countryside (7-4) went three and out on its first possession of the second half, Largo quarterback Ryan Eppes threw a home run ball on first down to Myrick Gwynn, who outfought a Countryside defensive back to make the catch at the 1-yard line. Durham ran into the end zone on the next play for his fourth touchdown and a 28-10 Largo lead.
"He almost set the school record (for touchdowns)," Largo coach Rick Rodriguez said. "(Dexter) McCluster had seven."
Countryside failed again to pick up a first down on its ensuing possession, and Largo put the game out of reach with a 13-play, 50-yard drive culminating with Eppes' 20-yard touchdown pass to Mike Lang.
Durham's fifth touchdown run, a 49-yard burst up the middle, gave Largo a 42-10 advantage.
"We came out of halftime and we couldn't get anything going against the wind," Countryside coach John Davis said. "It seemed like every time we were close to getting them stopped, they made a play. They were certainly the better team tonight, and we just had way too many mistakes."
Largo jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter after intercepting Countryside quarterback Jimbo Chmelik on the first play of the game and converting the pick into a touchdown. Durham ran in from 26 yards out on Largo's next possession, and the Packers appeared headed for a runaway victory until Chmelik completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Todd Shorter on third and goal early in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 14-7.
Largo fumbled on its next two drives and Countryside's William Griswold nailed a 26-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to make it 14-10 at the break.
"I think we learned a lot tonight," Rodriguez said. "When you get a big lead, teams get complacent. We didn't finish that second quarter.