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Longtime linebacker buddies finally wreak havoc together at Largo

Jayion McCluster and AJ Mathis came up through the same youth leagues, but this is their first season on varsity as a tandem.
 
Largo’s Jayion McCluster may not be happy with AJ Mathis on a personal level after losing a recent bet, but the two are thrilled to be high school teammates.
Largo’s Jayion McCluster may not be happy with AJ Mathis on a personal level after losing a recent bet, but the two are thrilled to be high school teammates. [ Times ]
Published Nov. 8, 2019

Last week, Jayion McCluster and AJ Mathis made a friendly wager on the Florida State-Miami game.

The Largo linebackers had more than a rooting interest. The colleges are part of their future with McCluster already committing to the Seminoles and Mathis pledging his allegiance to the Hurricanes.

The bet: 100 pushups for the loser. Miami prevailed 27-10, so McCluster started on his calisthenics.

“I knocked them out — four sets of 25,” McCluster said. “AJ was clowning me the whole time.”

Friends since their youth football league days, the two are playing in high school together for the first time as seniors. The reunion was made possible when Mathis transferred from Pinellas Park during the summer.

Related: MORE PREP FOOTBALL: Dale Caparaso takes Dixie Hollins from afterthought to contender
Largo’s AJ Mathis has done a little bit of everything: making tackles, snagging interceptions, sacking quarterbacks and getting a carry or two on offense.
Largo’s AJ Mathis has done a little bit of everything: making tackles, snagging interceptions, sacking quarterbacks and getting a carry or two on offense. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

“It felt like the right way to wrap things up in high school,” McCluster said of Mathis joining the Packers. “We both have been feeding off of each other’s energy since we were kids and we get to do it again one last time.”

McCluster (6-2, 210 pounds) set the school record for tackles in a game with 21 against Lakewood last month. He currently ranks among the state’s leaders with 136.

Mathis (6-1, 215) has 97 tackles despite dealing with a nagging shoulder injury most of the season.

“It’s been fun,” Mathis said. “I just wish I was fully healthy this year. It would have been a whole different vibe.”

Together, they have led Largo (7-3) to a No. 2 seed and a home game against No. 7 Countryside (6-4) in the Class 6A, Region 2 quarterfinals.

“We are both just pieces to the puzzle,” McCluster said. “We are going to do everything we can do just like the rest of the team will.”

Region football quarterfinals

All games 7:30 p.m. Friday

Class 2A, Region 3

• No. 1 Cambridge Christian (bye)

• No. 2 Northside Christian (bye)

• No. 6 Zephyrhills Cristian at No. 3 Seffner Christian

• No. 5 Keswick Christian at No. 4 Admiral Farragut

Class 3A, Region 3

• No. 1 Berkeley Prep (bye)

• No. 5 Clearwater Central Catholic at No. 4 Calvary Christian

Class 4A, Region 3

• No. 1 Lakewood (bye)

• No. 6 Englewood Lemon Bay at No. 3 Tampa Catholic

Class 4A, Region 2

• No. 6 Cypress Creek at No. 3 The Villages

Class 5A, Region 3

• No. 8 Chamberlain at No. 1 Rockledge

• No. 6 Port Orange Atlantic at No. 3 River Ridge

• No. 5 Melbourne Eau Gallie at No. 4 Jesuit

Class 5A, Region 2

• No. 5 Citrus at No. 4 Nature Coast

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Class 6A, Region 3

• No. 5 Port Charlotte at No. 4 Hillsborough

Class 6A, Region 2

• No. 8 Boca Ciega at No. 1 Gaither

• No. 7 Countryside at No. 2 Largo

• No. 6 Springstead at No. 3 Lake Minneola

• No. 5 Clearwater at No. 4 Dixie Hollins

Class 7A, Region 3

• No. 8 East Lake at No. 1 Palm Beach Lakes

• No. 7 Loxahatchee Seminole Ridge at No. 2 Mitchell

• No. 6 Pinellas Park at No. 3 Manatee

Class 7A, Region 2

• No. 8 Melbourne at No. 1 Armwood

• No. 7 Wiregrass Ranch at No. 2 Lakeland

• No. 6 Tampa Bay Tech at No. 3 Viera

• No. 5 Bloomingdale at No. 4 Winter Haven

Class 8A, Region 2

• No. 7 Lennard at No. 2 Orlando Dr. Phillips

• No. 6 Riverview at No. 3 Kissimmee Osceola

• No. 5 Newsome at No. 4 Steinbrenner