FORT LAUDERDALE — Moments after the game, Largo linebacker Mike Marry was bent over, hands on his knees and his face down long enough that his teammates hovered over him, wondering if he was injured.
Marry was fine, physically. A 35-14 loss to Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas in the Class 5A state semifinals, sealed during a momentum-changing second quarter Friday, was emotionally draining for Marry and his teammates.
"It was tough," Marry said. "We should be playing next week. We just made too many mistakes."
It was widely assumed St. Thomas Aquinas would administer a thrashing to the Packers. After all, the Raiders entered ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today and Rivals.com and were seeking their fifth straight state title appearance and second straight title.
All Largo wanted was to exact revenge after losing to the same team at the same stage of the playoffs a year ago.
Early in the second quarter, it appeared the Packers (12-2) might get that chance.
Trailing 7-0, Largo drove 69 yards to St. Thomas Aquinas 11. Facing third and 8, Ryan Eppes threw a fade pattern to the corner of the end zone that was intercepted.
The Raiders then marched 80 yards and scored on a 21-yard pass from Ryan Becker to Duron Carter to make it 14-0.
The next Packers possession resulted in another interception. St. Thomas Aquinas (14-0) also capitalized on that turnover, scoring on another pass from Becker to Carter, this one from 1 yard out, to go ahead 21-0 at the half.
"That kind of took the wind out of us," Largo coach Rick Rodriguez said.
The start was much different than last year, when the Packers jumped out to a 13-0 lead. This time, Largo had to come back from three scores down against a team that had not trailed since Week 1.
At the start of the second half, it seemed things would get only worse as the Raiders' Giovanni Bernard raced 54 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-0.
Then the Packers mounted a comeback.
Relying on guileless runs up the middle, Largo chewed up yards on two drives capped by touchdown runs of 14 and 5 yards by Marry.
Needing a stop, the Packers' defense could not come up with one as St. Thomas Aquinas drove 62 yards for the final score on a 4-yard pass from Becker to James White.
Largo had one more chance to score, but the drive ended just past midfield as time expired.
"Largo has some great athletes and really played a great game," said St. Thomas coach George Smith, whose team faces Lakeland on Friday. "They were able to do some things to us in the second half."
But it wasn't enough to pull off the upset.
Afterward, heads dropped and arms flailed as the Packers walked off the field just short of their ultimate goal.