The Lake Wales Highlanders are on familiar turf.
Lake Wales beat Spoto of Riverview 28-0 Friday night in the first round of the FHSAA Class 5A playoffs. The Highlanders, who are regulars in the playoffs, travel to Tampa next Friday for a second-round game at Jesuit at 7:30 p.m. Jesuit topped Auburndale 29-21 Friday.
LWHS, which improved to 7-4 overall, was healthy for the first time in two months. Three defensive backs, who also play as wide receivers, were at full speed and it made a big difference. The Spartans had almost no passing game as a result.
But the Highlanders had a glaring problem. They were called for 14 penalties for 145 yards. The Spartans had almost as many first downs by penalty as it did with its offense. With the help of three penalties, Spoto mounted its only threat and moved to 2-yard line in the fourth quarter but fumbled.
In the first half, Lake Wales had a balanced offense while the Spartans stayed on the ground.
The Highlanders went 65 yards on seven plays on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead with just over three minutes gone in the game. LWHS quarterback Railond Garrett completed three passes on the drive before Justin Henderson scored on an 8-yard run.
Spoto had no yards passing in the first half. The Spartans complete one of four passes, but there was no gain on the completion. But they did have success on the ground. Spoto had 98 yards rushing in the first two quarters and never managed to get into the red zone.
Lake Wales, which had six penalties for 45 yards in the first half, mounted its second successful drive of the game late in the first half. A bad punt gave the Highlanders the ball on the Spoto 39. A 16-yard pass from Garrett to Marcus Walker highlighted the seven-play possession. Henderson scored his second touchdown of the night on a 3-yard run with 31.1 seconds left in the second quarter.
LWHS had 56 yards rushing and 83 yards passing in the first half. Garrett completed his first six pass attempts.
The Highlanders took control of the game in the third quarter with a bomb. Lake Wales started a drive on its own 22 and with rushing plays gradually moved down the field. Then Garrett threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to junior Darion Staten and LWHS had a 21-0 lead.
Spoto threatened early in the fourth quarter but Walker picked off an interception and on the first play from scrimmage Henderson scrambled 81 yards before he was tackled on the 12. Two plays later, Henderson ran the last 12 yards for a 28-0 score and his third TD of the game.
Henderson finished with 121 yards rushing on 11 carries.