ST. PETERSBURG — Anthony Johnson blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown and had two interceptions to lead a strong defensive effort by St. Petersburg in a 31-6 win over Largo on Friday.
The Green Devils (1-0) took advantage of turnovers and sloppy play from Largo's offense and special teams to storm out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Johnson got a jump off the line and blocked Largo's first punt of the game, picked up the ball on the bounce and returned it 25 yards to the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Then the turnovers started for Largo (0-1). On the next series Green Devils defensive lineman Ja'Quion Miller stripped Largo quarterback Isaiah Bellamy and the fumble was recovered by John Wemes at the Packers 18.
Five plays later St. Petersburg quarterback Tonio Shavers called his own number from the 3-yard line to make the score 14-0.
Largo fumbled on its next series when Kion Brown failed to control a handoff and St. Petersburg quickly turned it into points with a 28-yard touchdown run by Deshawn Brown.
"I thought we played well on defense," Green Devils coach Joe Fabrizio said. "The kids were ready to play. They were ready to finally play a real game. On offense … it was little ugly, but we put up 31 points."
Largo was finally able to get on the board after a 35-yard kick return by Quavon Matthews gave the Packers a possession at the St. Petersburg 46. The Packers got a 16-yard reception from Brown and were aided by a 15-yard illegal-hit penalty on St. Petersburg to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Bellamy to make the score 21-6.
The Packers made a defensive stand to get another possession inside of St. Petersburg territory, but Johnson made the first of his two interceptions.
"That young man can be as good as he wants to be," Fabrizio said. "He's got all the tools. He can do everything on the field, and he can make me look real smart."
A steady rain slowed down the offense on both sides in the second half. Jaylynn Williams had a 41-yard run to set up a short field goal for St. Petersburg in the third period, and Williams found the end zone on a 15-yard run with less than four minutes remaining in the game.
Largo was held to less than 100 yards of offense until a late drive that stalled inside of St. Petersburg's 20.
"We never got off the bus tonight," Packers coach Marcus Paschal said. "We wanted to control the line of scrimmage, protect the ball, and the defense needed to force two turnovers. We did none of that. I still believe we have a very good ball club, but it's time for these young men to grow up. They have to be more responsible and if the game of football is that serious to them, then they need to take it seriously."