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Storied football rivalry between Clearwater and Largo is back

Largo RB Marcus Paschal scored 2 TDs against Clearwater in 2001. Now he coaches the Largo squad. 
Published Oct. 22, 2015

History and hatred. Big games and high stakes. The rivalry between Clearwater and Largo high schools had it all.

But that was decades ago. The teams have been in different classifications for years, and the annual grudge match was moved from its traditional spot on Thanksgiving weekend to different times during the regular season.

Then the game went from being just another one on the schedule to not being played at all.

This year, things are different.

After an eight-year absence, the storied rivalry is renewed with Largo (5-3, 2-1) hosting Clearwater (6-1, 3-0) Friday in an important Class 6A, District 9 game that has playoff implications for both teams.

"This rivalry is the original rivalry in Pinellas County," Clearwater first-year coach Don Mesick said. "As a fan of high school football I was upset that the game hasn't been played in recent years. It's very important that these two teams play every year, and the fact that it's now a district contest with a playoff berth on the line makes it even more intense.

"Both teams being relevant this year sets up a tremendous Friday night atmosphere."

The rivalry began in 1932. Herbert Hoover was president and the country was in the Great Depression. The schools showed their fighting spirit — on and off the field. Brawls usually occurred before, during and after the game.

It was small town (Largo) versus city slickers (Clearwater).

The animosity became so intense that the series was suspended within its first decade and did not resume until 1959. When it did, it became a Thanksgiving weekend fixture, and was the only game in town. St. Petersburg High played its big game that morning or afternoon.

It also was the final game of the regular season. Usually there was a conference title or a playoff berth at stake. The rivalry became so big that portable bleachers were added in the end zone for that game.

In 1966, Clearwater's Jim Sever scored three touchdowns in a win before an ecstatic crowd of 10,000 at Jack F. White Stadium.

Clearwater and Largo were undefeated when they met in the regular-season finale in 1977. The host Packers, led by running back Michael Whiting and tight end/defensive tackle Bob Cayavec, won to remain unbeaten.

Whiting was the Suncoast player of the year and played at Florida State.

"That was always the biggest game of the season," Whiting said. "You never wanted to lose that one. I remember that '77 game because it was so packed. They even brought in chairs and had people sitting on the track."

Cayavec became an All-American tackle at Alabama under Bear Bryant.

"The Clearwater-Largo rivalry is so big because everybody grew up together," Cayavec said. "I can't believe they haven't played for the past couple of years."

Even the coaches have fond memories of the series. Largo coach Marcus Paschal played in the series for the Packers in 2000 and 2001.

"I can remember it like it was yesterday," Paschal said. "My senior year in 2001 I turned 17 the day of the Clearwater game and scored two touchdowns in a win. It was always a big game to me growing up, and I found it so odd that it wasn't on the schedule.

"I glad it's back. The rivalry is good for the county and for both schools."

Contact Bob Putnam at bputnam@tampabay.com. Follow @BobbyHomeTeam.

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