Lake Wales used everyone but cheerleaders and waterboys but just didn’t have enough depth in a 22-10 loss to rival Winter Haven Friday night at Legion Field.
LWHS had 30 players dress out to start the game, the most it has had on the field in a month because of injuries. But at the end of the game, the number was down to 27 again. Lake Wales was just worn out in the fourth quarter.
The non-district loss drops Lake Wales to 3-4 overall. But the Highlanders still are atop the Class 5A, District 10 standings at 2-0. Winter Haven, which is a classification higher at 6A, is 5-2, 1-0.
The Highlanders looked strong on its first drive. With quarterback Railond Garrett running for 15 yards and throwing to Darion Staten for another 13, LWHS had a first down on the 25. Garrett found Staten in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown pass just three minutes into the game for 7-0 lead for the home team in front of a crowd estimated at over 1,500 for homecoming night.
Lake Wales muzzled the Blue Devils through most of the first half. Winter Haven quarterback Darian Mills was incomplete on his first six pass attempts.
Late in the second quarter, the Highlanders were clinging to their 7-0 lead when the Blue Devils finally mounted a drive. With D’angelo Gaines carrying the ball, Winter Haven moved down the field. Mills finally completed a pass and the visitors had a first down on the 15 yardline. After a 3-yard run, Mills found tightend Chayce Armbruster wide open in the end zone and the game was tied 7-7 with 45.9 seconds left in the first half.
LWHS acted quickly in the closing seconds. A 12-yard pass to Staten and a 15-yard penalty against Winter Haven helped moved to 26. Jonathan Smith, who also plays on the Lake Wales soccer team, lined up and hit a 42-yard fieldgoal as the halftime buzzer sounded. The Highlanders went into the locker room with a 10-7 advantage.
Winter Haven came out with new energy to start the second half and put its offense in gear. The Blue Devils moved from their own 30 down to Lake Wales’ 25 in a hurry. But they fumbled and Eddie Joseph recovered for the Highlanders on the 25.
After being moved back with a penalty, LWHS went 3-and-out. The Blue Devils started down the field again, and this time, they weren’t stopped. Gaines scored on a 13-yard run with 4:50 left in third quarter Winter Haven took its first lead of the game. Mario Leonard ran for a two-point conversion and the visitors had a 15-10 advantage.
The Highlanders lost starting quarterback Garrett to cramps and leading receiver Staten to an ankle injury late in the third quarter, so they had to depend on their running game on offense. Justin Henderson responded with a 30-yard run. LWHS moved to Winter Haven’s 15 with a first down, but it stalled there and 28-yard field goal attempt was blocked as the third quarter ended.
The Blue Devils went down the field late in the fourth quarter against a patched-up Lake Wales team that obviously was tiring out. Winter Haven took a 22-10 lead with 4:47 on the clock.
Lake Wales has a bye next week, giving it some time to heal and recover. Then the Highlanders return with a rare Thursday night game at Auburndale on Oct. 24 for Bright House TV. LWHS is back in Class 5A, District 10 with the Auburndale game. If Lake Wales wins, it is assured of at least a berth in the state playoffs and probably a first-round home game.