AVON PARK - The Highlands Eagles Youth Football Program continued to struggle over the weekend. On Saturday, which concluded the first half of the season, the Eagles dropped four out of five games to the visiting Lakeland Destroyers at the Sebring Sports Complex.
Lakeland held Highlands scoreless in the first three games, as the Destroyers beat the Eagles in the Flag game 26-0, toppled the Mitey Mites 34-0, and downed the Pee Wees 34-0. The Eagles managed to win the Junior Varsity game 12-0, but lost the final game as the Varsity team fell 21-7.
The Pee Wee game was practically over by halftime, thanks to touchdown runs from Jordy Lowery, Nario Ware, and Dontevion Smith, who combined to give the Destroyers a 20-0 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Ware connected on a 38-yard pass to Lowery for another touchdown, and Albert Callaway scored the near the end of the game on a 33-yard run to cap off the 34-point rout. The loss dropped the Pee Wees to 1-5 on the season.
The Highlands Eagles' Junior Varsity and Varsity squads have both had a tough year, with each losing a handful of tightly contested games. Miraculously, though, they're in still in playoff contention.
But making the postseason just got tougher for the Varsity squad, as the team fell by 14 points to the Destroyers in a hard fought game.
Lakeland scored first, when the Destroyers' defense chased the Eagles' quarterback for a 30-yard loss. The sack was compounded by an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone, which resulted in a safety, and gave Lakeland an early 2-0 lead. The Destroyers scored again in the second quarter, this time in a more conventinal manner, when quarterback Joe Chisolm zipped a pass to J.T. Spike for a 22-yard touchdown.
The Eagles rebounded to score just before the half. After driving down to Lakeland's goal line, a fumbled snap took an Eagles bounce into the Destroyers' end zone, where Nathan Smith pounced on the ball to secure the touchdown.
But Lakeland bounced back in the second half, opening the third quarter with a bang, as Joe Cash returned the kick off 90 yards for a touchdown to the Destroyers up 14-7. Lakeland missed the extra point.
The Destroyers put the game out of reach late in the third quarter. Chisolm punched in another touchdown from the Eagles' one-yard line to put Lakeland up for good, 21-7. The loss dropped the Varsity squad to 3-3.
As defending Super Bowl champions, the Junior Varsity Eagles are finally starting to turn things around after a slow start and some critical early losses.
Kasey Hawthorne wasted no time putting his Eagles ahead, as he streaked down the sidelines on the opening kick off for a touchdown to return to put Highlands up 6-0.
Thanks to a blistering Eagles defense, which intercepted two passes and receovered a fumble, the game turned into a defensive struggle from there, with the kick off return being the only score until late in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles secured the victory with a 10-yard touchdown run by Norris Taylor, Jr. gave them a 12-0 lead over Lakeland. The defense would hold on from there to complete the shutout. The Eagles improved to .500 with the win, moving to 3-3 on the season.
Up next for the HYF program is the Dundee Hornets. The Eagles will travel to East Central Park on Saturday.