Of the more than 5,000 people at Legion Field Saturday night for the first ever Webber/Warner “Caloosa Lake Clash,” there was one spectator who had particular interest in the historic college football game.
And not just because he’s one of the area’s most well-known and respected football minds. It’s because there might not ever have been Saturday night if not for current Lake Wales football coach Rod Shafer.
“It was really exciting to see it. It was a dream come true,” Shafer said. It was Shafer, who in 2004 left Lake Wales High to start the fledgling Webber program, only to return to the Orange and Black a few years later when he had the chance to coach his son, Justin, who was a three-year starter for the Highlanders before accepting a baseball scholarship at the University of Florida.
Saturday’s game, won by Webber 23-0, was the first college football game ever between two county schools.
Shafer said the local programs, too, will attract kids who might go to a bigger university, and then decide where they are isn’t the right place after all.
“They go away and find out they’re sitting the bench. It’s fun running out of the tunnel the first year, but when you realize you’re not going to play, you get a lot of transfers that way too,” he added.
The game’s pageantry included having the game ball “flown” to midfield by a Cypress Garden’s parasailer. On the field, it was clear that Webber was the more established program, methodically marching to the win. The Warriors dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for 33:18. The Royals were held to 10 net yards rushing in the game and 122 yards through the air.
Still, the margin of overall talent between the two schools wasn’t as far apart as fans might have expected, and there is already excitement being built for a rematch in 2014.
Warner head coach Jeff Schaum saw some improvement from his club’s season-opening 31-3 loss at Stetson, but overall was not pleased with the lack of discipline by the Royals.
“We were a little bit better overall than last week I think,” said Schaum speaking to reporters after the game. “We hurt ourselves with our own mistakes; we shot ourselves in the foot with stupid penalties.”
Overall there were 20 penalties handed out on Saturday night, 10 to each team. The Royals racked up 127 yards via infractions while the Warriors were just shy of 100 (98).
The Royals keep to the road next week when they travel to Macon, Ga., to face Mercer University. Next Saturday, Sept. 14, will mark the third straight night game for the Royals to open their inaugural season in 2013. Kick-off for the Royals-Bears matchup is set for 6 p.m.
The Warriors will return to action on Saturday, as well as they travel to Pineville, La., as they take on Louisiana College with the game starting at noon.