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Countryside rallies late for title

To beat Largo and win the Class 5A, District 9 title, Countryside coach John Davis called a play he had not used since he took over last season.

With the Packers leading 21-20 late in the fourth and the Cougars facing third and 20 at their 20, quarterback Harrison Beck stepped into the huddle and called Larry HBO.

The play started as a wide receiver screen, something Davis knew Largo would be ready for. But after receiver Dan Petillo caught a pass behind the line of scrimmage from Beck, he lateraled to running back Isaiah Gwyn.

Gwyn had two options: keep running or throw downfield. He chose the latter and tossed a 35-yard completion to an open Matt Wirth. The gain, coupled with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Packers, gave Countryside the spark it needed.

Three plays later, Gwyn scored the winner on a 21-yard run as the Cougars beat Largo for the second year in a row 33-21.

"I hadn't used that play since I was at Clearwater Central Catholic, but I planned on calling it sometime tonight," Davis said. "We sure picked the right time."

Before that drive, the Cougars had a chance to ice the game. Ahead 20-14, Countryside had the ball on the Largo 6 when Beck rolled out and threw a pass that was intercepted by Fred Marshall in the end zone.

Largo responded by driving 80 yards in six plays, the last a 6-yard run by Chauncey Ward for a score. Jonathan Segrete added the extra point to make it 21-20.

On the ensuing possession, Countryside backpedaled with a costly penalty that forced Davis to reach into his bag of tricks.

"We just needed something to happen at that point," Davis said. "We put the ball in the Isaiah's hands on the lateral and let him do the rest."

The pass was Gywn's third completion of the season. The other two went for touchdowns.

"Once I got the ball, I saw the receiver open," Gwyn said. "I just made sure I didn't force the ball. I lobbed it up there and (Wirth) caught it."

Largo never recovered.

The Packers' final two drives ended with an interception and a fumble. Gwyn, who battled cramps in the fourth quarter, finished with 220 yards rushing and scored four touchdowns, the last coming on a 30-yard run to round out scoring.