The fate of each team that took the field last night was unaffected by the outcome. No matter what, Lake Wales would be moving on to the first round of playoff next week to face Spoto while Bartow would bring down the current on the 2013 campaign.
Despite anything that has happened this season, the game would carry the same implications of all previous matchups between these two teams. Both squads we looking forward to the chance to earn the bragging rights that go to the victor that hold until the two teams meet again. This year the bragging rights go to Highlanders which won 55-14.
Lake Wales elected to get things rolling by winning the toss and keeping the honor to take the ball first. The ball went out of bounds and Lake Wales opened action with the ground game. Facing third and short, quarterback Railond Garrett hustled past the onrushing defense and rambled for 27 before being brought down by his face mask. That was another 15 for the Highlanders, who now had the ball at the 15. A short gain by Justin Henderson was followed by a run from Earnest Hamilton. On third down, it was Henderson’s turn as he swung wide and scampered in from nine yards out for the game’s first score.
Jonathan Smith booted the extra point, giving Lake Wales the 7-0 advantage with 9:18 showing in the first quarter.
Bartow it the ball just short of the 20 on the ensuing kickoff and started an immediate drive. Dimitri Leverett pitched to Troy Jones who moved up the near sideline for 21. Jabray Chisolm gained 17 and then added 11 more The drive stalled after Leverett was snowed under by the Highlander defense. Matt Martin punted the ball away to Lake Wales. Hamilton carried for four and Lake Wales attempted the first pass. The ball was tipped by the intended receiver right into the hands of defensive back Brandon Whitten, who raced into the end zone in his first game as a member of the varsity team. Chris Ramirez added the extra point to knot the game at 7-7.
A quick possession by Lake Wales put the ball back into the hands of the Yellow Jackets. Leverett wasted no time threading the needle to a great catch made by Tre Jordan for a 52 yard pitch and catch that put Bartow on top. Ramirez put it through the uprights to give Bartow the 14-7 lead with the clock showing 2:44 to go in the opening stanza.
The Highlanders went to the offense at the 38 with Hamilton toting the rock for 5. Garrett found Riley for 15 to move the chains. Hamilton and Henderson exchanged carries with each getting positive yards along the way until getting to the 15 to end the first quarter. Garrett went to the air, finding Marcus Walker for half the distance. Henderson pushed it to the 2 before Hamilton finished the job at the 11:09 mark. smith’s point after tied the game at 14.
Jordan took the kickoff just short of the goal line and put on a burst of speed to race 98 yards for an apparent touchdown. However, a chop block call prevented the score from changing and the Bartow offense took the field at the 15. Chisolm got a Bartow first down and kept grinding, helped out by a Highlanders personal foul. Leverett hit Jordan on a wide receiver screen for a short gain. The running game added another first down to mix. Leverett’s pass to Martin sailed high on first down and Leverett carried for six.
The passing game tried to score as Leverett went searching for Martin, but Highlanders two-way star Garrett broke up the play. It set up a fourth and short and Leverett dropped back to pass. He spotted Chisolm wide open in the flat and laid the ball right on the receiver, who dropped the pass. Lake Wales took over on downs and Hamilton popped off a 23 yard gainer to open the drive. Hamilton carried again, but fumbled. An alert play by lineman Cody Polston allowed the Highlanders to keep the ball. Henderson scooted through for 10 and added six. Garrett could not find an open receiver and carried for 14. It was all Henderson at that point and two plays later, Lake Wales had the lead. Smith’s kick boosted the score to 21-14.
Leverett opened the Yellow Jacket drive with a 13-yard gainer. Chisolm fought for five more, but a holding penalty took away a little life from the squad. The team could only get a few yards and ended up in a fourth and long.
Martin’s punt was nearly blocked, but the ball was fumbled. Once again, a Lake Wales player made amends for a teammate and there was no turnover. A nice wide receiver screen across the middle saw Riley pushing the ball ahead for seven. Garrett went looking for Riley again, but could not connect. Darion Staten was the next targeted receiver and the ball popped out incomplete. Henderson took a fourth down handoff inside and ran 41 yards before being tackled from behind. Garrett looked to Staten in the end zone and made the connection for a 5-yard score. Lake Wales extended the lead to 28-14 on Smith’s kick with 1:21 still to play in the half.
Bartow had one more shot before the half ended. An option pitch to Troy Jones got things started on the right note. Leverett and Jordan did not connect on a pass attempt and Devon McCoy gained four on a sweep. The clock ran out aft Chisolm gained five on the final play of the half.
Bartow would be on the receiving end of the kickoff, which came down very close to the end zone. Jordan felt he got it before it went in, but the officials saw other. Disaster nearly struck as Leverett was sacked and coughed up the ball, grabbed by Troy Jones. TJ was able to scamper for a short gain, but it was a three-and-out. A short punt gave Lake Wales the ball on the 38. Garrett looked to his right and saw Hamilton open. The running back, who had split wide, slipped through tacklers and claimed a 38-yard touchdown. The lead went to 35-14 after Smith’s point after with 9:50 in the third.
The kickoff rolled out of bounds and Bartow started at the 35. Leverett carried and fumbled, but somehow McCoy outfought five Highlanders for the ball. Jordan caught a pass and a personal foul added more yards and a Bartow first down. Running back Timmy Jordan, in his first carry, could not get to the line of scrimmage and a Bartow running play ended with a fumble and a change of possession.
The Highlanders used seven plays to add to their building lead as Henderson ran through several tacklers to gain a 27 yard score. The lead became 42-14 and to add insult to injury, a personal foul moved the kickoff 15 yards closer to the touchback.
Timmy Jordan started the drive with five yard carry before an official timeout. A Lake Wales face mask after a Chisolm carry gave Bartow a first down. Jones carried on second down to wipe out a loss from the first down play. A third down passing attempt fell and defender Staten was helped from the field from his defensive back position. Bartow faced a fourth down and, trailing, opted to go for it. Lovett could not escape the backfield and Lake Wales found themselves in a familiar spot. They had the ball at the 38, a place they had started a previous drive.
It looked like a score for Lake Wales, but a questionable holding call was made after Riley had made the catch and was running behind his blockers. Garrett carried for 18 to put the ball at the one. His back of choice was Henderson, who busted through to score with 2:33 to go in the third. A bad snap denied the extra point and the score stood at 48-14.
Chisolm got things moving for Bartow with a 15 yard gain. Leverett found McCoy who made a nice catch for 43 yards. A false start led to a third and 16, still hopeful of a score, but Leverett’s scramble was only a short gain. The teams changed ends as the fourth quarter arrived with Lake Wales on top 48-14.
The fourth down play was an incompletion, compounded by a Bartow holding call that was declined and it was Highlander ball at the 24. Bartow jumped offsides as new quarterback Ryan Marrell took the helm. Marrell rushed for a first down on third and short. He scampered 18 yards on the next play and the Highlanders were on the move. The same play to the other side drew almost 10 more yards. Marrell pitched to Shaka McGriff for a 15 yard touchdown run. Spencer Makdonaldo got his chance to kick the extra point and made it true. For the fourth time this year, Lake Wales scored 55 or more in a game. The score stood at 55-14 with 8:31 to go.
TJ Harvin took over as Bartow was giving some newer players some valuable experience. Harvin was able to connect with Tre Jordan on a long pass for a score with 3:44 to play. The 37 yard play was made even better when Chris Ramirez kicked the extra point from the hold of Cody Whitaker. The score rested at 55-21.
With a running clock, the last few minutes passed quickly. Lake Wales brought the ball to the 40 for what would be the last drive of the regular season. Marrell carried on the final play of the game for 11 yards.
Bartow ended the year with a 2-7 record while Lake Wales improved to 6-4. Legion Field will be the site of the first round playoff game as Lake Wales takes on Spoto. That game starts at 7 p.m.