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By Tom Paulson
City Editor 

Highlanders Fall in Regional Semi-finals

Ocala Vanguard Defense Shines in Clash

 

Last updated 11/20/2021 at 11:32am

After a strong showing this season, the Lake Wales Highlanders season came to a close in Ocala Friday night as they fell short 24-13 in a defensive battle with traditional powerhouse Vanguard. The game was locked at seven-all at halftime after each team posted quick opening touchdown drives.

The game was determined on the strength of defenses as four interceptions, three by Vanguard, made the difference. The Vanguard Trojans also blocked a Lake Wales field goal attempt. Courtney Brown returned the favor by intercepting Vanguard sophomore QB Fred Gaskin.

The Highlanders' junior starting quarterback, Trent Grotjan, a standout all season, was 7 for 12 attempts, but uncharacteristically let fly two interceptions as the Vanguard defense kept up pressure. The third came off backup quarterback Tyron Sumerall, a pick-six that left the score a lopsided 24-7. He helped make that up by following with a short pass from deep Highlander territory, which Carlos Mitchell carried 76 yards for a late TD. The following onside kick by the Highlanders was covered by Vanguard, allowing them to run out the clock.

The Highlanders had hoped to even the score as Vanguard had triumphed in previous playoff games. Lake Wales finished the season with a respectable 9-3 record, with other losses coming to 7-A Lakeland and district rival Auburndale.

 

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