East Lake preparing for early season barometer

EAST LAKE — Friday night’s game doesn’t count in the district standings and it won’t affect playoff potential.

None of that likely matters, though, as East Lake prepares for its yearly showdown with perennial Pinellas County powerhouse Largo High.

Even as the Eagles have found greater recent success in terms of playoff victories compared to their south-county foe, Largo has represented an often daunting regular-season hurdle along the way.

Seven times the teams have met in the past six years, with East Lake earning just a single victory over that span — a 21-7 home win in 2010.

Adding fuel to the Eagles’ preparatory fire during this week of practice will be memories — and probably some game tape — of last year’s 40-10 home-field debacle.

Although 2012’s battle didn’t quite live up to expectations, all eyes in Pinellas County will once again be on Friday night’s match-up.

Both teams enter ranked in the Associated Press’s top 10 of their respective classifications and on the heels of convincing Week 1 road wins. East Lake blew out Palm Harbor University, 49-0, and Largo dominated Northeast, 46-0.

Following last Friday’s game at PHU, East Lake coach Bob Hudson said his team’s offensive approach will likely balance out more in Largo.

The Eagles stayed on the ground for nearly 80 percent of their snaps against the Hurricanes, piling up 312 yards along the way. Starting tailback Weston Fordham and receiver Artavis Scott combined for over 230 rushing yards in the first half, nullifying any real need to air it out.

Assuming the push-back from Largo’s defense will be considerably greater this Friday, first-year starting quarterback Jake Hudson likely will be called on to keep the chains moving.

Hudson completed two of four pass attempts at PHU but made half of those hookups count, hitting for a 71-yard catch-and-run touchdown to receiver George Campbell.

Perhaps helping the Eagles on both sides of the ball will be the recent high-level experience gained during their preseason classic against nationally ranked Bradenton Manatee.

East Lake dropped that 38-7 decision on the road two weeks ago but did have opportunities to narrow the margin of defeat and left with plenty to build on.

Seeing that speed and skill so early in the year could pay dividends for Eagles defenders when faced with Largo running back Jarvis Stewart, quarterback Donavan Hale and receivers Reggie Campbell and Raheem Harvey.

With Scott, Campbell, defensive back Devin Abraham and left tackle Mason Cole, the Eagles have plenty of A-one talent to match.

Those two groups of athletes alone provides this game with all the makings of an exceptionally entertaining high school football game.

This one’s for early season, best-of-Pinellas bragging rights. If East Lake ever wants to lay claim to that title, it’s going to have to get through Largo first.

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