Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sports

Largo: 2014 football preview

Largo

Coach: Marcus Paschal (first season)

Last season: 8-3

Class/district: 6A-7

Colors: Light gold and royal blue

Stadium: Packer Stadium, 410 Missouri Ave., Largo

Playoff history: 1974, 1975, 1977, 1985, 1991, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

Last appearance: Lost 25-17 to Jefferson.

Season schedule

Aug. 29 vs. Northeast, 7:30

Sept. 5 at East Lake, 7:30

Sept. 12 at Gibbs, 7:30

Sept. 19 vs. Jesuit, 7:30

Sept. 26 vs. Lakewood, 7:30

Oct. 2 at Osceola, 7:30

Oct. 17 vs. Venice, 7:30

Oct. 24 vs. Lake Gibson, 7:30

Oct. 31 at Dixie Hollins, 7:30

Nov. 7 vs. Countryside, 7:30

Mark your calendar

Venice at Largo, Oct. 17: This is a rematch of one of the most entertaining games of 2013. Largo trailed 21-7 with 3:58 remaining before rallying with two scores, the last coming on a 36-yard Hail Mary pass from Donavan Hale to Reggie Campbell as time expired. Jarvis Stewart ran in the conversion for a wild 22-21 win. Both teams are projected to be at the top of standings, and the Indians again pose the biggest threat to Largo's attempt to win 10 straight district titles.

Huddle highlights

New era: Marcus Paschal, a former standout at the school, was hired in February to replace Rick Rodriguez, who retired after a successful 15-year run. Paschal has tried to put his own stamp on the program with a new coaching staff, and new helmets and uniforms. What he is trying to maintain is the same winning tradition. Largo has won a Pinellas County-record nine straight district titles. The talent is there, especially at the skill positions on offense. The defense looks stacked, too.

Airing it out: Largo has traditionally been more ground-oriented on offense. That has to do with the quality of backs that have come through the school, from Dexter McCluster to Brynn Harvey to Stewart. Now, the Packers are more equipped in the passing game. Paschal and his staff have gone to more of a spread offense with Hale throwing to perhaps the deepest receiving corps in the county, led by Campbell, Jonathan Crawford and Brandon Drayton. The new offense worked in the spring as Hale threw for three touchdowns. The only concern is Hale's health. He was hobbled by injuries last year, and the line will have to do a better job protecting him now that he's taking deeper drops on longer pass routes.

Filling big shoes: The biggest hole on offense was at running back. Stewart, who rushed for 1,146 yards and 15 touchdowns, is gone. But Largo appears to be well-stocked with John Clark and D'Terio Petitie. Clark, who will be the starter, played well down the stretch last season and finished with 303 yards. Petite, the backup, ran for 99 yards in the spring against Palm Harbor University.

Getting a leg up: Largo was hurting in the kicking after last year's starter, Ben Hammelmann, returned home to Germany. Last week, the Packers found a replacement in Taj Taylor, who showed he can nail field goals of up to 35 yards.

Tough schedule: Much like last season, Largo will be tested. The Packers face five teams who made the playoffs in 2013, including a pair of state semifinalists in East Lake and Lakewood. Also on the schedule are games against Gibbs and Countryside, both of which should contend for playoff berths.

Known quantities

WR/DB Reggie Campbell, Sr.: After missing the spring and part of fall practice because of academic issues, Campbell is back and will be counted on as a deep threat. He also can make plays in the return game.

WR/LB Jonathan Crawford, Sr.: Already known as a hard hitter on defense, Crawford could have as big of an impact on offense, especially after catching seven passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns against Palm Harbor University in the spring.

WR/DB Brandon Drayton, Jr.: Though he didn't post big numbers last year, Drayton's potential is endless and he'll get significant playing time on both sides of the ball.

OL/DL Brandon Dull, Sr.: The returning starter anchors an offensive line that will have to mobile in a new spread offense.

QB Donavan Hale, Sr.: The basketball star showed what he could do in the spring, throwing for 291 yards and three touchdowns against Palm Harbor University.

OL/DL Javaris Sanders, Jr.: The top returner on the defensive line finished last season with 18 tackles and two sacks.

Up-and-comers

RB John Clark, Sr.: After backing up Stewart, Clark gets to take the lead role in the backfield and should put up big numbers.

RB/LB D'Terio Petiite, Sr.: He showed he can rush the ball the ball in the spring, but his primary position will be at linebacker. In the spring, he had a devastating sack that forced PHU's backup quarterback out of the game.

WR/DB Taj Taylor, Jr.: Taylor steps into a more prominent role on defense after shining in the offseason with several spectacular in 7-on-7 tournaments.

Coach's corner

"I'm trying to put my stamp on a few things with some new ideas, but this is still the same ol' Largo Packers, and our goal is to keep that tradition of winning district titles alive." — Paschal

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