A sweet football season ended on a very sour note for the Lake Wales Highlanders Friday night.
American Heritage of Plantation manhandled LWHS 48-16 in the semifinals of the state 5A football playoffs at Legion Field.
The Patriots were bigger, stronger and faster and made easy work of beating Lake Wales. Heritage moves on to the state championship game next Friday in Orlando. Heritage is 13-1 and will be favored to win the state title.
The Highlanders had real problems with their special teams with Heritage returning two kickoffs for touchdowns. At the same time the Patriots were in control on offense and defense. Sony Michel ran for 132 yards for Heritage.
LWHS finishes the season with a 9-5 record by winning six in a row. With just seven seniors on the team, the Highlanders already are looking forward to next season.
Lake Wales kicker Jonathan Smith suffered a broken wrist making a tackle in a game against Jesuit two weeks ago. Normally, the Highlanders don’t have to worry about kickoff returns because he kicks it through the end zone. But with a broken wrist he was not kicking shorter and had no intentions of getting near a tackle, giving LWHS just 10 tacklers on kickoffs.
Tarvarus McFadden had the first runback for a touchdown. He caught the game-opening kick on the 15 and went 85 yards for a touchdown just 16 seconds into the game.
The Highlanders went their first two possessions without a first down. Scott Wade made field goals of 29 and 47 yards and American Heritage led 13-0 at the end of the first quarter.
If losing Smith was a problem on kickoffs, it might have been an even bigger problem on punts. Junior Spencer Maldonado took over that job and he had two punts of just 2 yards each.
The Patriots took a 20-0 lead early in the second on a 24-yard run by Michel.
Lake Wales had a good drive in the second quarter but Garrett threw his second interception of the game. Then the Highlanders scored on a three-play drive late in the second quarter. Earnest ‘Bo’ Hamilton went 35 yards on one carry and Justin Henderson scored on a 23-yard run for a 20-7 score.
The Highlanders kicked off for the second time in the game, and for the second time Heritage returned it for a touchdown. This time Isaiah McKenzie romped 93 yards to cross the goal line just 12 seconds after LWHs had scored.
Smith hit on a 42-yard field goal for the Highlanders just as the half ended for a 27-10 score at intermission.
The Patriots scored twice early in the third quarter to make the game a rout at 41-10. Heritage scored again in the third quarter after a short punt for a 48-10 lead and the game went to a running clock in the fourth quarter.
With a lot of substitutes on the field, the Highlanders scored with 4:09 left in the game. Backup quarterback Ryan Morrell went in on a 2-yard run. The kick was for the final scored of 48-10.
The Highlanders just couldn’t move the ball while Heritage moved it almost at will. Michel had great success with quick openers right up the middle.
The game became less than friendly. At halftime Heritage decided to stand where the Highlanders were going to loosen up and the two teams ended up with shoving matches and an exchange of words. The referees hurried down the field to break it up before it got serious.