LARGO — East Lake staked its early season claim to the title of Pinellas County’s best with a commanding 22-0 win at Largo.
The Eagles (2-0) dictated Friday night’s tempo from whistle to whistle and used a 13-point fourth quarter to pull away late.
Weston Fordham and Artavis Scott turned in another solid performance on the ground, combining for 185 of the Eagles’ 255 rushing yardage. Drew Couto stepped up as well, adding 79 yards on nine carries. All three found their way into the end zone once.
Largo, playing without star running back Jarvis Stewart from the start, never could find an offensive rhythm against East Lake’s sturdy defense. That became increasingly difficult after quarterback Donavan Hale went down midway through the second quarter. Junior varsity quarterback Isaiah Thomas took over
Despite playing shorthanded and being outgained 341-151 on the night, the scrappy Packers (1-1) managed to keep the game close through three quarters. East Lake led only 3-0 heading into halftime, thanks to a booming 53-yard field goal from Daniel LaCamera that capped the game’s opening drive.
The Eagles forced Largo into four turnovers and sacked Packers quarterbacks five times. Defensive back Devin Abraham snagged two interceptions and standout outside linebacker/defensive end George Campbell was in on four of the sacks.
East Lake will enter next week’s home opener against Dunedin without having surrendered a single point. The Eagles shutout Palm Harbor University last week, 49-0.
Eagles coach Bob Hudson said a key to Friday night’s win over non-district nemesis Largo was the discipline his team showed on both sides of the ball.
“We gave up a couple deep balls, but that’s about it,” he said. “They played their hearts out, they tackled well and they played to their responsibilities. Last week early in the game against Palm Harbor we weren’t playing our responsibilities.”
While East Lake players were wearing down their opponent by staying in their respective lanes and zones, Largo players continued going down with injuries or cramping up as the game dragged on.
That stick-to-itiveness finally paid off five minutes into the third quarter. The Eagles put together an 11-play drive that Fordham capped with a 6-yard touchdown run. A botched point after kept the score at 9-0.
The 59-yard march also featured a more-balanced look from the East Lake offense. Quarterback Jake Hudson completed 4 of 6 passes on the drive and finished the night 9 of 19 for 96 yards and an interception.
Coach Hudson said last week to expect a diversified attack, but that the run-to-pass balance will largely depend on what opposing defenses show.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in our running game,” he said. “As long as people put so much attention on the outside, we’re going to have to keep grinding it out inside.”
East Lake finally pulled away late in the final quarter, scoring two touchdowns in 20 seconds.
Scott finished off an eight-play, 64-yard drive with an 8-yard run to put the Eagles ahead, 16-0. Largo then fumbled away possession deep in its own territory and Couto made it hurt by taking the first snap 20 yards and sneaking inside the left-sideline pylon.
After enduring last season’s 40-10 loss at home, the East Lake defense looked ready to make amends. Hunter Snyder, Regis Steighner, Conor Trump and Carson Lyndon all joined Campbell in Largo’s offensive backfield while piling up the unit’s five sacks. The Eagles’ first of three interceptions was recorded by Lyndon in the first quarter, picking off a tipped Hale pass inside the East Lake 20.
Hale, Largo’s junior quarterback, completed 2 of 5 passes for 83 yards before going out with an apparent lower-body injury in the second period. Both completions were long, nicely thrown balls that put the Packers into East Lake’s half of the field. After Hale’s departure, Largo only crossed midfield on one other occasion.
Packers safety Jonathan Crawford turned in an impactful performance Friday by being involved in both East Lake turnovers. The junior intercepted Jake Hudson inside the Largo 5-yard line in the first quarter, then thwarted another Eagles scoring opportunity in the second by jumping on a Couto fumble at the Largo 6.
While East Lake guns for a rare 3-0 start to the season against Dunedin (1-1), Largo will try to heal up and regroup with a home game against Gibbs (0-2). The Eagles technically started last season 4-0 before losing to Largo, but their Week 2 loss at Countryside was changed to a forfeited victory.
Both games next week are being played Thursday night rather than Friday.
EL - 3 – 0 – 6 – 13 --- 22
LHS - 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 --- 0
EL – LaCamera 53-yard FG. – 1st Quarter (7:52)
EL – Fordham 30-yard run. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 3rd Quarter (6:45)
EL – Scott 89-yard kickoff return. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 4th Quarter (3:51)
EL – Couto 10-yard run. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 4th Quarter (3:31)
EL – Scott (14-98, TD), Fordham (18-87, TD), Couto (9-79, TD).
LHS – R. Campbell (4-18), Hale (5-15).
EL – Hudson (9-19 for 96, INT).
LHS – Hale (2-5 for 83, INT), Thomas (2-6 for 22, INT).
EL – Scott (4-35), G. Campbell (2-22), Fordham (1-18).
LHS – R. Campbell (1-45), Harvey (1-38), Crawford (1-18).