Highlanders Vanquish Vanguard, Will Host Regional Title Game at Legion Field
Ocala Squad Had Stymied Lake Wales in Two Previous Title Runs
Last updated 11/24/2022 at 10:49am
The Lake Wales Highlanders took another step forward toward their long-denied state football title Friday night as they defeated the Ocala Vanguard Knights 40-0. The Knights had ended the Highlanders' last two title runs, making the victory particularly sweet.
The win advances the top-seeded and undefeated Highlanders to the Regional Championship Game, which will take place Friday evening at Legion Field when they host the number three seed Zephyrhills Bulldogs. Game time is set for 7:00, according to information posted online, but confusing changes have left fans guessing. Less than a thousand watched the Highlanders advance this week.
The Highlanders and Bulldogs met in August in the first game of the season, when Lake Wales handed Zephyrhills a 33-0 drubbing, one of only three losses they have experienced this season. Zephyrhills defeated Lecanto Friday night by a 21-0 score.
Corey Harris and Carlos Mitchell were outstanding in Friday night's win, combining for multiple quarterback sacks as well as some outstanding offense. Mitchell ended the first Vanguard drive when he picked off a pass at the Lake Wales 15-yard line.
Mitchell had another interception in the second quarter that set the Highlanders up at their own 49 with 1:29 in the half. Harris took the next snap to pay-dirt, a 51 yard touchdown, leaving the halftime score at 33-0, and giving him 196 yards of offense in the first half.
Lake Wales began their first possession at their own 21, and Senior Quarterback Trent Grotjan went straight to work, tossing a 34-yard completion to Mitchell, followed by a 14 yard pass to Xavier Marlow. Two plays later Grotjan tossed to a wide-open Jeremiah Anglin for a 31-yard TD. The kick missed, but the Highlanders had their first lead at 6-0. They would never look back.
After the low-scoring first quarter the Highlanders blew the game in the second with a series of big plays. Vanguard had advanced as far as a fourth-and-goal at the Lake Wales 3-yard line when the Highlanders' Terrell James hit Ocala Quarterback Josiah Farmer for a six yard loss. Lake Wales went back on offense, and Corey Harris hit the go-juice on the very next play, a 91-yard sprint to the end zone that left Vanguard stunned.
Carlos Mitchell pulled in a Grotjan airmail for a 40-yard TD that made the score 19-0. After the kickoff, Xavier Marlow cut Ocala short and earned a pick-six from the Vanguard 35, and the score climbed to 26-0.
A Vanguard fumble into the end zone was recovered by Tavoris Jones for another Highlander touchdown. That lop-sided score set up a running clock for the remainder of the game.
The Highlanders collected only two penalties for 20 yards, vastly improving on the penalty-plagued win against Auburndale last week. Grotjan experienced two interceptions, bringing him to only six all season.