Rule No. 1: Always know where he is on the field. Rule No. 2: Do not underestimate his strength, speed or football IQ. Rule No. 3: Following Rules 1 and 2 is no guarantee of success. That is the way a primer on how to play against Largo's Mike Marry might begin. Marry, perhaps the finest linebacker in the county and one of the best in the state, will present Punta Gorda Charlotte's offense with what will probably be its biggest matchup problem tonight at Packers Stadium.
The Tarpons may rely on their running attack more against the Packers than in any game so far this season.
If previous performances by the electrifying Mike Bellamy and the offensive line are any indication, Charlotte may even be encouraged by such a game plan. After all, Bellamy has rushed for 1,859 yards and 27 touchdowns, including five scores of 50 yards or longer.
"This is going to be our toughest test of the season," Largo defensive coordinator Matt LePain said. "Charlotte is averaging more than 30 points per game. It's an explosive offense."
But then there is Marry. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, he is fast enough to stop runners coming around the edges and strong enough to shed blockers and limit gains up the middle. He has more than 90 tackles and his energy and savvy have led a defense that is tops in the county in fewest points allowed (100) this season, including the playoffs.
"Mike is like another coach on the field," Packers coach Rick Rodriguez said.
Largo coaches knew right away Marry would be a star. He started as a sophomore three years ago and immediately assumed signal-calling duties.
"It was a lot of responsibility," Marry said. "You have to recognize all the offenses and make the right checks," Marry said.
Last season he was named the Times' all-county defensive player of the year after registering 122 tackles, four sacks and an interception.
And now Marry is exhibiting all of his extraordinary traits: a swifter takeoff than a 747, a vertical leap to rival a trampoline champ and the power on contact to cause the opponent he's aiming for to vibrate like a jackhammer.
Those physical gifts are what has attracted colleges. Marry, who has a 3.9 grade point average, has 30 offers from Division I schools. So far, he has taken only one visit — to Iowa State.
"I plan on taking the rest of my visits after the season," Marry said.
This week, he is concentrating on getting Largo past a formidable opponent and into the state semifinals.
"Charlotte is a good team," Marry said. "But if we keep playing like we've been practicing, we'll be all right."