PACKERS 14 COUGARS 0

LARGO – Given the circumstances, Largo coach Marcus Paschal wasn’t expecting a high-scoring shootout Friday night.

The Packers were down a senior starting quarterback and dinged up on both sides of the ball. The rematch with Countryside wasn’t going to combine for 70-plus points like it did in September. Largo would need its defense to lead the way and its two young, inexperienced quarterbacks to navigate the game plan.

Along with Andre Bell’s second straight 100-yard rushing performance, Paschal got both from his squad during Friday night’s 14-0 Class 6A Region 2 quarterfinal win over the Cougars.

“With our quarterback down this week we just had to feel it out with a couple new guys,” Paschal said. “They’re both sophomores. We played with a senior (Brandon Coppola) all year and then you have two sophomores thrown into a playoff game. It took us time to see where they were at. Once we settled down, we executed from there.”

Florida State commit Jayion McCluster, primarily a linebacker, took the offense’s first snaps as quarterback before handing over to sophomores Jonquis Bonney and Garrett Gurney. Both completed passes Friday night and Paschal eventually leaned on Gurney to take most of the snaps.

Gurney only threw six passes but connected on four for 88 yards and a touchdown. He tucked the ball and ran 12 times for 20 yards and the game’s first score.

Both of Gurney’s touchdowns came in the second half. Defense and conservative offensive play calling dominated the night early.

Countryside (6-5) held possession for most of the first quarter into the second, but two potential scoring opportunities ended with long missed field goals of 45 and 47 yards.

The Cougars defense came up with a big stop of its own at the end of the first half to keep the game scoreless. Largo (8-3) advanced as close as the Countryside 2 but wound up with nothing to show for it. A false start penalty pushed the Packers back to the 7 and Gurney’s pass to Jarrod Briscoe at the buzzer was broken up by Cougars senior Zack Riddle.

It wasn’t the last time Gurney would look for Briscoe in the same left corner of the same end zone.

Largo iced the victory with 1:40 remaining when Gurney hit Briscoe for a 20-yard touchdown that capped a 12-play, 85-yard drive.

Gurney’s poise throughout the march impressed. Facing third-and-12 from the Largo side of the 50, the sophomore bobbled the shotgun snap before recovering, sliding to his left and hitting Khaishef Edwards downfield for a huge 44-yard catch-and-run with just 5:30 showing on the clock. One play prior to the touchdown pass to Briscoe, Gurney had a 7-yard touchdown run negated by a holding call.

Largo scored the night’s first points on its second drive of the second half. That 10-play 77-yard possession was powered by Bell. He ran three times for 21 yards in the first half, then had three consecutive carries of 15, 10 and 36 that got Largo deep into Cougars territory. Gurney finished it off with a 1-yard run.

Countryside struggled to find an offensive rhythm all night, totaling fewer than 100 yards and only 25 in the second half. Quarterback Kamrhen Simpkins picked up most of those yards, running for 31 and passing for 62.

Largo’s disruptive defensive front bottled up the Countryside ground attack and pressured Simpkins on passing downs all night, resulting in three interceptions. Deontraze Paul, Seyvion Scott and McCluster each recorded a pick.

“We had a good game plan,” Paschal said. “The defense did what we needed it to do early. We knew the quarterback was very dynamic. We didn’t want to let him beat us like he did a week ago against East Lake. We took care of business tonight so I’m proud of our guys.”

The first turnover of the night was created by the Cougars defensive backfield when Aaron Baxter Jr. picked off Bonney to end Largo’s first drive. Countryside took over at the Packers 45 after a penalty pushed the line of scrimmage back and got no closer than the 28. That drive and the next ended in the long field goal misses – the first a little short and the second wide right.

“Hats off to Coach (Eric) Schmitz and Countryside because they had a great year,” Paschal said. “We knew it was going to be a tough fight when we came in here tonight.”

Largo picked up its first win in the postseason since beating Naples Barron Collier 27-24 in the first round in 2017.

The second-seeded Packers will host No. 3 Lake Minneola (8-3) next week. The Hawks advanced by hosting and beating Springstead 42-12.

Countryside was participating in the postseason for the first time since 2015. The Cougars haven’t won a playoff game since reaching the region finals in 2010.

SCORING:

CS - 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 --- 0

L - 0 – 0 – 7 – 7 --- 14

L – Gurney 1-yard run. Kick (Dosanjos) – 3rd Q (2:01)

L – Briscoe 20-yard pass from Gurney. Kick (Dosanjos) – 4th Q (1:40)

TEAM STATS:

----------------------CS------- L

First Downs----------7---------10

Atts./Rush Yds.---18-36----41-204

Comp./Atts./Int.---9-21-3----5-8-1

Passing Yds.--------62-------106

Net Yards----------98-------312

Fumbles/Lost-------0-0-------2-0

Punts/Avg.---------3-38.0---3-28.3

Penalties----------4-30-------10-75

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS:

RUSHING

CS – Simpkins (12-31).

L – Bell (11-106), Gurney (12-20, TD), McClary (6-18).

PASSING

CS – Simpkins (9-21 for 62, 3 INT).

L – Gurney (4-6 for 88, TD), Bonney (1-2 for 18, INT).

RECEIVING

CS – Jones (5-46), Lopez (2-10).

L – Briscoe (1-20, TD), Matthews (2-34), Edwards (1-44).

PINELLAS SCORES

CLASS 7A REGION 3 – No. 1 Palm Beach Lakes 32 No. 8 East Lake 27

CLASS 7A REGION 3 – No. 3 Manatee 35 No. 6 Pinellas Park 7

CLASS 6A REGION 2 – No. 1 Gaither 47 No. 8 Boca Ciega 27

CLASS 6A REGION 2 – No. 2 Largo 14 No. 7 Countryside 0

CLASS 6A REGION 2 – No. 5 Clearwater 35 No. 4 Dixie Hollins 6

CLASS 3A REGION 3 – No. 5 CCC 49 No. 4 Calvary Christian 28

CLASS 2A REGION 3 – No. 4 Admiral Farragut 52 No. 5 Keswick 10

PASCO SCORES

CLASS 7A REGION 2 – No. 2 Lakeland 57 No. 7 Wiregrass Ranch 7

CLASS 7A REGION 3 – No. 2 Mitchell 33 No. 7 Seminole Ridge 14

CLASS 5A REGION 3 – No. 6 Atlantic 41 No. 3 River Ridge 14

CLASS 4A REGION 2 – No. 3 The Villages 42 No. 6 Cypress Creek 7

CLASS 2A REGION 3 – No. 3 Seffner Christian 35 No. 6 Z-Hills Christian 6