The Highlanders football season came to an end Friday night as Immokalee topped Lake Wales 38-21 in the Class 5A regional playoffs.
Lake Wales, 8-5, fell quickly as the Indians,10-3, scored on their first play and scored four touchdowns in the first half and despite the Highlanders attempted comeback in the second half a 65-yard touchdown pass for the Indians sealed their playoff victory.
The win avenged Immokalee’s 19-14 loss to Lake Wales on Sept. 21 in the pouring rain.
After the opening kick off went into the end zone, Immokalee started the Class 5A regional playoff game with a complete pass to the 50-yard line from D’earnest Johnson to J.C. Jackman and with a wide open field and lots of room, he ran for a touchdown on the very first play from scrimmage. Jesus Velasco’s extra point attempt was good and Immokalee took at 7-0 lead with 11:48 left in the first period.
Lake Wales benefited from a penalty on the kickoff that went out at the 15 yard line but it was brought to the 35. The Highlanders came out rushing as Jonte Sergeant carried first followed by two surprise carries by Bobby Leath who was lined up in the backfield Friday. But the Highlanders went 3 and out on their opening drive and a punt by Tate Mathewson gave the Indians the ball back near the Indians 40.
A pass play from scrimmage followed by a couple of rushing plays by Johnson gave the Indians a first down to keep their drive. Robert Wimbley thwarted a keeper by Johnson to rush for the first-down. However, they punted deep to give the Highlanders the ball at their own 8-yard line.
The Lake Wales kept it on the ground to bring the ball out away from the goal line. Railond Garrett passed in an attempt to convert through the air on third down. The ball was caught but short of the first down. Mathewson punted deep and Darion Staten hit the punt-returner hard. Running back Mackensie Alexander caught everyone off guard and rushed more than 50 yards to give the Indians its second touchdown on the evening. The extra point was converted and the Indians pulled out to a 14-0 lead with 3:14 left in the first period.
The Highlanders continued to keep the ground game moving forward with 292-pound defensive lineman Leath. Mathewson handled a high snap to punt deep on fourth down. Johnson went deep and is nearly intercepted by Lake Wales’ Wimbley. Johnson again went deep and the pass was deflected by the Lake Wales defense but caught near the 35 yard line by the Indians.
Johnson passing successfully to his corps of receivers who continued to move the ball forward for the Indians.
Then Johnson got dropped hard in the backfield by Lake Wales’ Leath for a loss. However, Johnson then threw to Alexander for a completion near the 20. On the next play Alexander rushed 15 yards for Immokalee’s third touchdown and after Velasco’s kick, it went up 21-0 with 9:30 left in the half.
Earnest Hamilton returned the kick off from the one yard line all the way beyond the Indians 20. A penalty by the Indians on the return gave Lake Wales field position at the 5.
Leath carried and got slammed in the backfield by a determined Indians goal-line defense. Lake Wales’ Tony Reeves rushed for the first Highlanders touchdown for the evening and with Mathewson’s extra point, the score gap was closed to 21-7 with 7:33 left in the second quarter.
Immokalee was playing a great game of throw and catch and consistently found ways to get the ball through the Lake Wales defense. The Lake Wales defense was beginning to crimp down on the Indians and held them to four and inches.
The Indians punted and Marcus Walker brought the ball back to the 30. Garrett went to the air to pick up a first down on a complete to Walker. However, a personal foul against the Highlanders brought the ball to the 21 yard line and it was first and 15.
Earnest Hamilton carried to give Lake Wales a third and three. Hamilton carried again up the middle for a first down. Lake Wales had control with just more than two minutes left in the half.
However, a forced fumble by the Indians defense took a reception away from Walker.
The Indians took over near midfield and Johnson’s pass got it to the 25. A rush brought the ball inside the 10. Johnson rushed to get the ball to the one yard line. Then Tshumbi Johnson kept the ball, dove in and widened the Indians lead with the extra point to 28-7 with 45 seconds left in the half.
In the second half, the Indians scored with a field goal with less than two minutes gone as Velasco’s kicked went through the uprights from 36 yards, making the score 31-7.
Despite that, the Highlanders were not going to give up as Garrett on a keeper ran in a touchdown from the one-yard line with 2:22 left in the third period.
The teams remained scoreless for most of the fourth quarter. However, Garrett hit Tony Reeves on a 19-yard touchdown pass with 5:28 left in the game to bring the Highlanders within 10 points after Mathewson converted on the extra point. The score was 31-21.
But the game was sealed when Immokalee got the ball back when Johnson hit Jackson on a 65-yard touchdown pass with 2:21 left in the game. With the extra point, the Indians went up 38-21.