CLEARWATER — As the final minute ticked away, Largo coach Marcus Paschal started sobbing.
The tears continued long after the Packers' 17-7 win over Clearwater. They were there when Paschal talked to his players and reporters afterward.
"I can't put this into words," Paschal said. "It's been a long time coming."
Largo won the Class 6A-9 title for the first time in Paschal's four years as coach. The seniors, including linebacker Logan Doublin and running back Jaquan Hiers, have been with Paschal since they were freshmen.
"There have been so many ups and downs," Paschal said. "Everybody knows my love for the community. Last year we didn't have the kind of season we wanted. We fought through a lot and to come back here and win my first district title. It means a lot, for me and these seniors.
"I told them it was deeper than the game."
The Packers had to endure renovations to their field that forced most of their season to be on the road. There are now new lockers and sod on the practice field and at the stadium.
The work is part of a campus makeover that took nearly three years to complete. Paschal was just as confident in his program's reclamation project.
Last season Largo finished 3-6, the first losing record since 1999. In five of those losses, the Packers led at halftime.
Paschal again is teaching at Largo. The coaching staff also has some continuity with former standout Brynn Harvey coaching the running backs and former head coach Rick Rodriguez helping out with the offensive line.
The Packers (8-1, 5-0) also went back to their roots by playing smash-mouth football. Offensive coordinator Gregory Moore was brought in last year and groomed to take over the play-calling this season. The plan is run, run, then run some more.
That approach has to do with a line that has three returning starters and averages 260 pounds. They use two, sometimes three, tight ends to put as much beef up front as possible.
Those guys open holes for Hiers and Jayion McCluster. Against the Tornadoes, Largo ran 42 times.
Hiers opened the scoring on a 2-yard run in the second quarter for a 7-0 lead.
Clearwater (6-2, 4-1) countered as Colin Wray hit Quante Perry on a 16-yard pass to tie the score at 7 with 45 seconds remaining in the half. That gave the Packers just enough time to make something happen.
Hiers had a big run and Calvin Lockett had a 31-yard reception that set up 28-yard field goal to give Largo a 10-7 halftime lead.
In the fourth, the Packers broke the game open on Hiers' 5-yard TD run. Brown had an interception on Clearwater's final possession to seal the win.