LARGO — Palmetto is used to seeing Pinellas County teams in crucial games.
On Friday night, the Tigers came to Largo looking to improve 5-0, and they did just that with a convincing 44-6 victory over the Packers.
After edging Pinellas Park in the Class 6A region quarterfinals in consecutive seasons, Palmetto was well aware of the task ahead against a Largo squad that was sitting at 3-1 entering Friday night.
“I didn’t see this coming. I thought if we played to the best of our ability, then we would win the football game,” Palmetto coach Dave Marino said. “We didn’t think we would win so decisively. Hats off to our kids and our coaches for putting a good game plan together and executing it against a great football team. I see them going 8-2 or 7-3 at worst. This is a big win on the road.”
The Tigers won their third straight game on the road after upending Sarasota Riverview and previously unbeaten Port Charlotte. This is the first 5-0 start since 2011 for Palmetto.
A tempo was set from the jump for the Tigers, who galloped to a 20-0 advantage in the opening quarter.
Senior wideout Lajohntay Wester caught a 6-yard strike from senior quarterback Xavier Williams and also brought back a punt 85 yards toward the end of the first quarter.
Junior running back Sagel Hickson punched in the game’s first score at the 10:26 mark on a 4-yard carry. It was set up on a long catch and run from senior athlete Kevion Williams, who nearly blew by everyone for a score.
In the second quarter, Palmetto didn’t slow down one bit.
Xavier Williams opened the action up with a 1-yard run after a third play from inside the Largo 5-yard line.
Wester hauled in a 20-yard touchdown grab midway through the quarter and Hickson added his second score, a 67-yard run past the entire Largo defense down the left sideline.
Largo finally ended the shutout with under seven minutes left in the game on a 2-yard tough-nosed run from senior quarterback Brandon Coppola.
Largo will travel to Countryside (3-1) next week. The only in-area loss this season for the Packers came on the road at Pinellas Park, 26-22 two weeks ago.
Coach Marcus Paschal, a former standout player at the program, took over Largo in 2014 and the team went 15-15 over his first three seasons. The Packers are 18-10 since, however, making the playoffs in back-to-back years, including a region semifinal appearance in 2017.
“It is a powerhouse program. Every year, it is them and Pinellas Park battling it out. Much respect for this program. They have Division I athletes all over the field,” Marino said. “I mean, the two linebackers (AJ Mathis and Jayion McCluster) are Division I commits. You have No. 6 (Khaishef Edwards) with multiple Division I offers.”
No Largo coach or player was made available for interview after the game.