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Rams continue 5A-9 dominance another week

Largo has been in this position before. Flashback: 1989. After going 5-0 and losing 20-14 to Sarasota Riverview at the Rams' homecoming, the Packers go on to lose two of their next four. A 13-6 win over Clearwater leaves them with a 7-3 record in the regular season.

Update: After going 5-0 and pitching three shutouts, Largo loses 20-0 to Sarasota Riverview at the Packers' homecoming Friday. Largo will go on to ...

That is the million-dollar question: What, after being brought back down to earth, will the Packers do now? Regroup, coach Pat Mahoney said. Practice a little harder. And watch the remainder of the Class 5A, District 9 race even more closely.

"We're still in the race," Mahoney said. "I think Clearwater is capable of beating them, and so is Pinellas Park."

Pinellas Park got its second district loss, 24-21 to Dunedin on Friday. So a Clearwater win this Friday against Riverview (which hasn't lost to a Pinellas team since 1987) is even more important to the Packers. In the meantime, Largo will try to recover from its first loss.

"Last year, after we lost to Riverview, it was like we didn't care anymore," quarterback Jason Kylis said. "We went out and just got killed by Northeast and Pinellas Park. We have to keep our heads up."

Actually, Mahoney said, the shutout should be easier to swallow than last year's heartbreaking 20-14 loss in Sarasota.

"Last year it came down to the last play; we had a shot at the end," Mahoney said. "But tonight after they held the ball for nine, 10 minutes in the third period (8 minutes, 15 seconds, actually) things became obvious."

Largo simply could not stop the Riverview running game. Fullback Derrington Abnar, a 220-pound pile driver, ate up second-effort yards on the inside, while option passer Luke Bencie skirted the ends. And when Largo adjusted, the Rams came back with misdirection, as they did on a 30-yard run by Bernard Marshall that capped that extended third-period drive.

Riverview won despite being penalized for 45 yards in the first half.

One reason for the dominance was the Rams were sharper, Riverview coach John Sprague said.

"I think the main difference was that we had just come off games against Manatee (top-ranked in Class 5A) and Sarasota, which is a lot different than ... well, you know," Sprague said.

Yet Largo didn't make things any easier on itself. In the fourth period, the Packers fumbled and yielded an interception deep in Riverview territory. They didn't get a first down until 10:44 was left. And they had damaging penalties. The one that hurt the most, Mahoney said, was an illegal procedure call on first-and-10 at the Largo 27. The Packers were down 6-0 when John Boyd ripped off a 20-yard gain. But a formation glitch _ not enough men on the line of scrimmage _ called the play back.

"That penalty may have changed the complexion of the game," Mahoney said.

"I still think we are the best team in the county," Largo defensive end Marlon Dixon said. "We just had a bad day. This is just a minor setback."