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Largo home on the road

5A

Largo High will not host its region championship game against Chamberlain on Saturday, despite a final attempt by Pinellas County athletic director Walt Weller to preserve the Packers' homecourt advantage.

The game will be played at Pinellas Park, which Largo chose over Countryside.

According to Florida High School Athletic Association rules, any school hosting a Class 5A region championship must seat at least 1,100. Largo only seats between 600 and 700; Pinellas Park seats 1,200.

"I think it stinks," said Largo coach Phil Price, whose team is No. 1 in the state and undefeated at home this year. "Every other year, it's the luck of the draw who gets to host, and this year it was our turn. It's something you play for and hope for, and then it gets taken from you. I understand the state rule, but I think it stinks."

Largo assistant principal Greg Zornes said shortly after Chamberlain officials picked up their allotment of tickets Thursday, the FHSAA called saying the game had to be moved.

Weller attempted to broker a deal at the behest of Largo, however. Since the visiting team is allotted 40 percent of the tickets, Weller said Largo was willing to assuage Chamberlain by giving them 440 tickets, or 40 percent of 1,100.

That would have left about 260 for Largo's players and students.

"They were willing to in effect sacrifice homecourt advantage so the game could still be played there," Weller said.

But shutting out the Largo community made the deal unacceptable, said Denarvise Thornton, senior director of athletic operations and officials for the FHSAA.

"We denied it because we thought it was in the best interests of everyone to hold it at a larger facility," Thornton said. "We were also thinking about safety issues and giving everybody an opportunity (to see the game). Why would we condone Largo fans not being able to be a big part of this?"

Zornes said he assumes it was Chamberlain that initiated the move. Thornton said he did not remember who brought the issue to his attention.

Thornton said a number of games this week have been moved because of small facilities, but this was the only one the FHSAA was directly involved in.

Last year Largo was supposed to host the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship against Lakewood, but Weller moved the game to Pinellas Park to accommodate a big crowd.

The Packers lost that game.

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