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Defensive dominance

There's more to Largo than just a standout RB

By BOB PUTNAM, Times Staff Writer
Published November 18, 2005

LARGO - Defensive tackle Dan McFarland is well aware Dexter McCluster is the first thing people think of when the subject is Largo football.

After all, McCluster, the Packers' electrifying running back, has set single-season county records for yards rushing (2,110) and touchdowns (34).

But McFarland wants everyone to know the defense has made a name for itself.

In last week's region quarterfinal, Largo held Dunedin to 59 yards of total offense, including 10 in the second half. That mind-boggling performance was largely responsible for the Packers winning their first playoff game since 1991 and just their second in nine postseason tries with a dominating 23-0 victory.

It was the fourth shutout Largo has recorded this season.

"Dexter is unbelievable," McFarland said. "But he needs a defense that can stop people."

The stretch of zeroes is more amazing considering the Packers (9-2) have stood their ground against linemen who outweighed them by as much as 100 pounds.

What they lack in size, they make up for in speed as the football mighty mites have proved to be tiny terrors to opposing offenses.

Defensive coordinator Matt Lepain is responsible for making sure they are in the right place at the right time. He studies tape and uses the APEX scouting system that analyzes opposing teams' strengths and weaknesses.

"We've got a lot of guys that are versatile," Lepain said. "That helps us with some movement and allows us to give some different looks. Guys like Derik Holte and Colton Miller have really stepped up the past couple of weeks. And we don't have too many guys on this side of the ball that are slow."

Largo has its biggest test tonight in against Venice (4-7). The Indians offensive line is massive, with three guys who weight more than 275 pounds.

"Dixie and St. Petersburg both had big lines like that, and we shut them both down," coach Rick Rodriguez said. "It's been brought up in meetings this week about those games that we've done this before, and we can do it again."

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