The Lake Wales Highlanders have a badly needed week off on their football schedule this week.
LWHS has been losing its battle to overcome an onslaught of injuries and the bye week could not have come at a better time. The Highlanders had just 30 players dressed out for last Friday’s game and finished with only 27 available.
Lake Wales lost 22-10 to rival Winter Haven at Legion Field to fall to 3-4 overall. But it is atop the standings in a weak Class 5A, District 10 at 2-0. The Highlanders are certain of making the state playoffs again this year and are hoping to get healthy by the end of the regular season.
“It’s just been that kind of year,” said Coach Rod Shafer.
“Once again it is frustrating because I think it is a game we could have won.’’
During the game, the Highlanders lost starting quarterback Railond Garrett to leg cramps and speedster Darion Staten to a leg injury.
Garrett was forced to go both ways, playing cornerback on defense, which led to his cramping problem. If the Highlanders had been at full strength then Garrett could have played only on offense.
“I don’t think we have ever had a quarterback who had to go both ways,” Shafer noted.
Staten is the top receiver for Lake Wales and returns punts and kickoffs and plays in the defensive secondary as well. “The biggest thing was losing Staten. Once he got hurt, we couldn’t go man-to-man on our pass coverage. And when he got hurt, we couldn’t throw the football.”
Shafer is giving his players some time off before getting serious about the next game. The Highlanders play at Auburndale in a rare Thursday night game next week. The game is schedule to be televised on the Bright House cable network.
Auburndale is 1-0 in the district, but 1-5 overall. Mulberry is 1-1 with Poinciana at 0-1 and Tenoroc holding an 0-2 record in the district. Lake Wales has already beaten Mulberry and Poinciana. Tenoroc is 0-6 overall and has been outscored 311-25 this season.
“Against Auburndale, we should have just about everybody back,” Shafer said. “We should get Marcus Walker back, and he hasn’t played in over a month. I’m not sure about Luke Hiers yet.” Hiers is a 6-foot-4, 278-pound junior lineman who was a sophomore all-American last year.
“Overall, there is some light at the end of the tunnel,” Shafer continued. “We can’t overlook Auburndale. We’ll need everyone for that game.
“This time off will give us a chance to work on little things. Because of the injuries, we’ve had to move our entire lines around and this gives us a chance to solidify things,” Shafer pointed out.