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Packers set to make a stand

Largo has constructed the most devastating defense in the county, a scary assemblage of super athletes ready to take on any offense.

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The Packers have sacked quarterbacks, stuffed running backs and made hits so violent they brought gasps from the crowd.

Most of all, they rarely allow opponents to score.

Largo has given up a measly 29 points this season, 5.8 per game. Those stats rank as the best in the county and sixth best in the state.

"We are playing at a real high level on that side of the ball right now," Packers coach Rick Rodriguez said.

This isn't exactly what you'd expect from a unit that graduated its entire front four from last year's team that reached the state semifinals.

Still, Largo has not dropped off defensively because it returned all but one starter among its linebackers and defensive backs.

The top player returning is linebacker Mike Marry, the Times' all-county defensive player of the year last season.

Three other Packers — linebacker Sean Holte and defensive backs Mike Lang and Jason Wine — have all-county potential.

"I knew we were still going to be good," said Marry, who has 43 tackles and three sacks this season. "We just had to come out and be leaders."

Largo has not just met expectations, it has surpassed them. Through five games, the Packers are allowing fewer points than they did at this point last season (29-44).

"It's pretty amazing what we've been able to do so far," Rodriguez said.

Tonight, though, Largo will have its hands full against a Lakewood offense that has scored 170 points, a county-best 34 per game.

What strikes fear in most defenses facing the Spartans is their insistence on the long ball.

From nearly any place on the field, quarterback Jacquez Jenkins can unleash a bomb, his receivers gain separation from defenders and run underneath and catch it.

And keep running.

For a defensive back, there is nothing more frustrating than being in pursuit too often and seeing only the back of a Lakewood receiver streaking downfield with the football in his hands.

That is the Packers' problem.

They know what this group that features Victor Perkins, Sermetrius Dennis — and toss in all-purpose specialist Bernard Reedy as a receiver — can do.

"Lakewood has some great skill players with tons of size and speed," Rodriguez said. "It's going to be tough."

Marry, however, believes Largo's defense is up to the challenge.

"If we stay focused on our game, we'll be all right," he said.

>>FAST FACTS

Tonight's games

Largo (5-0) at Lakewood (4-1): This game features teams with the best records among county public schools. The big matchup is the Packers' defense (5.8 points per game) against the Spartans' offense (34 per game).

Burns' pick: Largo

Putnam's pick: Largo

Northeast (2-3) at East Lake (3-2): Both teams have won two of their past three games and hope to keep the momentum before getting into the bulk of their district schedule.

Burns' pick: East Lake

Putnam's pick: East Lake

Packers set to make a stand 10/15/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 17, 2008 6:16pm]
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