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New faces land Largo in same place: the region final of the football playoffs

Largo’s defense swarms St. Petersburg quarterback Cris Winiecki in the fourth quarter of the Packers’ 30-0 victory. Largo is back in the region final, relying on a more balanced team effort.

ATOYIA DEANS | Times

Largo’s defense swarms St. Petersburg quarterback Cris Winiecki in the fourth quarter of the Packers’ 30-0 victory. Largo is back in the region final, relying on a more balanced team effort.

The rest of the county looked at Largo this summer and engaged in some wishful thinking. Maybe the Packers, winners of three straight district titles, would not be able to cope with the loss of quarterback Leonard Johnson, running back Brynn Harvey and receiver Reggie McCray. Maybe it would all be too much for Largo to handle.

Maybe the rest of the county should have known better.

Adjustments are what the Packers have done best in their emerging dynasty. After all, Largo may change, but the results do not.

Though they filled the holes in their lineup with plenty of new faces, the Packers have not missed a beat. They advanced to the Class 5A region final against Charlotte with a 30-0 thrashing of St. Petersburg.

"I think last year we relied on a few guys," Largo coach Rick Rodriguez said. "This year we have more balance. And these guys all want to keep winning and try to go farther than we did before."

Ryan Eppes has done an admirable job replacing Johnson at quarterback. Marcel Durham has carried the rushing load in place of Harvey. And Mike Lang has become the go-to guy in the passing game after McCray's departure.

All of them have helped the Packers reach what has become a familiar spot in the playoffs.

This marks the third time in the past four years Largo has made it to the region final. It is one of the best runs a county program has ever had in the playoffs.

But is it the best ever?

That is for you to decide.

Here are some other great runs by county programs through the years:

Shorecrest (1975-76)

Under coach Jack Pribyl, the Chargers became the first team from the county to play in a state title game, losing to Greensboro 28-0. The following year, Shorecrest made another appearance in the title game, where it lost to Florida A&M 38-0.

Dunedin (1986-87)

The Falcons hosted the 1986 championship game and nearly pulled out the win, rallying from a two-touchdown deficit, only to lose 14-10. Dunedin came back to play in the 1987 title game, losing 24-0 to Pensacola Pine Forest.

Dixie Hollins (1993-95)

Twice, fiery head coach Mark Wiszowaty guided the team to the region final. After he stepped down, Todd Wilson took over and the Rebels went to the 5A state title game, where they lost to Fort Walton Beach 24-0.

Northeast (1995-98)

During these years, the Vikings won 43 straight regular-season games, the longest streak ever in the county. Northeast advanced to a region semifinal twice and the final once, losing to Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas 14-0.

Bob Putnam can be reached at putnam@sptimes.com or (727)445-4169.

>> Up next

5A region final

Charlotte (11-1) at Largo (11-1)

7:30 p.m. Friday; admission is $7

New faces land Largo in same place: the region final of the football playoffs 11/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 4, 2008 5:20pm]

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