For the second time in his career, Lake Wales football coach Rod Shafer will be leaving the Highlanders to join a local fledgling college program.
Shafer will take over as head football coach at Warner University after Jeff Schaum, was relieved from his duties at the Lake Wales college a few weeks ago.
Warner fielded a varsity football team for the first time in the fall of 2013, and lost its first 10 games of the season before winning its finale, 13-7, over Concordia College (Ala.).
Shafer confirmed his hiring to The Lake Wales News Wednesday morning.
“We prayed about it for a long time. I really wasn’t looking for a job, and certainly didn’t apply for the job. It’s been pretty emotional for me. This is my home, and I’ve got a great football team coming back, and the school itself is getting so academically amazing, the situation here is great,” Shafer said. “But I’ve always wanted the chance to coach at a Christian school, and I respect Warner and what they stand for.”
In 2002, Shafer resigned as the Highlanders head coach to start a varsity program at Webber International University in Babson Park. Shafer’s first year as the Highlanders’ head coach was 1990, and he took Lake Wales to back-to-back appearances in the state title game in 1993 and 1994.
He returned to the Highlanders sideline in 2006, and in that time, has guided the Orange and Black to two regional titles, the most recent which came last fall.
In four years, Shafer was 16-15. He returned to coach Lake Wales, in part, because his son, Justin, now a star baseball player at the University of Florida, was the Highlanders starting quarterback for three years.
“It’s not the same as Webber in that I don’t have to start everything from scratch,” Shafer added. “I’ve got to just fix what’s broken. I’m a little concerned because we’ve lost the recruiting season, but when you build a program like that, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, so it’s going to take a few years.”
Warner will be joining a new six-team league this fall, sponsored by The Sun Conference, that will include rival Webber and Southeastern University in Lakeland, which is starting a football program this year, and recently signed Highlander starting quarterback Railond Garrett. Webber is scheduled to host Warner at Legion Field on Sept. 6 this fall.