LARGO - The way the Class 5A brackets are set up, provided it can beat Cape Coral at home Friday night, undefeated Largo will host the next postseason game: a 5A state semifinal.
The Packers (12-0) are hoping homefield advantage will be enough to get the job done. The last two playoff losses for Largo have come on the road: 26-13 to Bradenton Manatee in the region semifinal in 2005 and North Fort Myers last season 23-19 in the region final.
The loss to North Fort Myers was especially painful to the Packers. Largo's Brynn Harvey, now the Pinellas County regular-season rushing record holder, and North Fort Myers' Noel Devine tried to outduel each other. Devine had one more play in his tank than Harvey, and that proved to be the difference in a come-from-behind win by North Fort Myers.
That loss has driven the Packers to make amends.
"That's been on their minds since last year," Largo coach Rick Rodriguez said. "We have talked about that loss since we started spring practice. They're still upset they didn't finish. They want to finish."
Largo quarterback Leonard Johnson agreed.
"When we talk about that loss, we don't want to repeat that," Johnson said. "We are getting after each other and hoping we don't have to face that kind of loss this year."
About the only dissenting voice was Harvey.
"That was a big loss, but they just came out on top," said Harvey, who has rushed for 2,237 yards and scored 26 touchdowns this season. "Last year, that season has gone by. This is a different season. We're motivated to win and get into the state semifinals."
To do that, getting past Cape Coral (10-2) will be a large task. Cape Coral beat Manatee last week 31-28.
"How tough are they? They're the toughest team we've played so far," Rodriguez said.
The Packers are hoping their less-than-idyllic home field will be the difference. It may not be great, Rodriguez joked, but it's their home field.
"Playing home with the crowd behind you and not having to travel, that's big," Rodriguez said. "We like to call our field 'The Dog Patch.' We call it that because it's like a bunch of dogs ran through it and tore it up. Plus, people like to walk their dogs on it and turn them loose."