The Highlands Youth Football and Cheer Organization hosted its official season opener on Saturday at Joe Franza stadium in Avon Park with games against the Lake Wales Gators.
It was the first official game of the season, the Eagles coaches and players were anxious to get on the field knowing that from this point on, every game counts and each win is one step closer to a divisional playoff game. Our Lady Eagle cheerleaders started off the day getting our players pumped up for the game and boosting the team spirit in the stands with our spectators.
The first team to take the field was the Flag team, ages 5-6, coached by Steve Remes. The Eagles offense took the field led by Marcus Gomez, Josh Hernandez, Leon Harris and Damari Cohen.
The Gators took an early 6-0 lead, but the Eagles responded quickly with Harris scoring the first touchdown of the day and the extra point by Cohen made i 7-6.
The defense made its presence felt and stood strong with key plays by Max Gagnon, Keldrice Legree, Clayton Hooks and Harris.
The offense scored again to win by a final score of 13-6. It was a very exciting game with the Eagles getting the first win of the official season.
Next to take the field was the Mighty Mite team, ages 7-8, coached by Bronson Smith. The Eagles took the field with pride with the offense led by Fred Hankerson, Luis Calderon and Isiah Pete.
The offense struck quickly as Pete ran 52 yards for a touchdown. The Gators responded with a couple of scores of their own to take the lead at 13-6.
On the defensive side of the ball, Solan Huter forced and caused a fumble and made several key tackles with teammates Kaleb Rojas, Landon Young and Hankerson.
In the second half, the offense struggled to gain momentum and the defense couldn't contain the Gators who cruised to a 31-6 win.
Next up was the Pee Wee team, ages 10-11, coached by Tim Hooks, which started the day meeting a strong defensive stance from the Gators after an early score.
The Eagles offense rallied together led by quarterback Graisin Wheelock along with offensive linemen O'Brien Yarde and Christopher Cardoso plowing the way to allow fullback Austin Smith to drive down the field resulting in a touchdown in the first quarter.
The Gators quickly responded with a score of their own. The defense came out in the second half with key tackles by Jacob Bennett, Colton Topper, Steven Douthit and Wheelock but the Gators strong offensive drives led to the first loss of the season for this team with a final score of 31-6.
The Junior Varsity team, ages 12-13, coached by Cliff Howell, took the field with the Gators. The game got off to a great start with the offense, led by Quarter Norris "Fish" Taylor, Jr. and Geo Gonzalez scoring on a 15-yard touchdown for the first score of the day to take an early lead of 6-0.
The strong JV defense took the field alert and ready with key tackles made by Kyle Rodriguez, Kasey Hawthorne, Jordan Rose, Kevin Webb, Gonzalez and Taylor. The Gators quickly responded with a score of their own on a breakaway run to take the lead 7-6.
The Eagles offense exploded as Taylor scored with the extra point by Marquis Hawthorne. The defense quickly thwarted the Gators advances and capitalized on the next drive as Kasey Hawthorne intercepted the ball and ran 75 yards to score.
Kasey scored again on a 20-yard pass from Taylor and Taylor scored again on a 55-yard touchdown to make it 32-7.
Colton Williams sacked the quarterback causing a fumble in the end zone which Williams in the end zone for a final score of 38-7.
The Varsity Eagles team, ages 13-15, coached by Nick Bailey, did not have a game due to the Gators not having a Varsity team and earned their first victory by forfeit.
All in all it was a great day of football for the Eagles taking three out of five games.
The Highlands Eagles play their next game today on the road against the Lakeland Hurricanes at Lake Gibson High School. Games begin at 9 a.m. Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for children. Come on out to support the Highlands Youth Football and Cheer program.
Lake Placid Youth Football
It was an exciting, high-scoring game for the Lake Placid Flag team with a combined total of 57 points scored that was decided in the last minute of the fourth quarter. Lake Placid standouts included Alfrado Archer, who ran for two touchdowns and threw a completion to Caleb Andrews.
Edwin Williams scored a touchdown and Brandon Pratts scored his first touchdown of the season. But, Frostproof proved to have just enough to pull out the win and hand Lake Placid a 31-26 loss.
Frostproof got the ball first, but the Dragon defense applied tremendous pressure, pushing the Bulldogs back, and ending their drive when Amani Allen sacked the quarterback for a safety. The Dragon offensive line worked really well together with strong performances by Ty Hannon, Gavin Higgs, Christopher Winslow, Tony Barajas and Tracen Phillips. The offensive line opened up opportunities for the Dragon running game with good runs by Allen, Patrick Pierre, Colton Krueger, and quarterback James Zarrella.
The second half saw more offensive power from the Dragons, but penalties took their toll. Contrary to the Flag game, this was a defensive contest that ended where it began - Lake Placid won 2-0. Coach Kevin Zarrella was very proud of the way his team played and is looking forward to playing the Heartland Hurricanes.
Although the Pee Wee game was officially forfeited by Frostproof due to a mixup with their books, the teams played an abbreviated contest with a running clock. Dragon coach Alfrado Archer was very proud of his defense, which was able to hold Frostproof scoreless for the entire game. Defensive standouts included Austin Wilson, who had five tackles for a loss, Alan Glover with four tackles for a loss,
The Dragon offense, led by Trent Garrison, had impressive performances by Javarie White who ran for 135 yards and a touchdown and Anthony Allan who rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Lake Placid won 18-0.
Juniors coach Shawn Taylor couldn't have been more proud of his squad on Saturday. The Dragons dominated on both sides of the ball and came away with an impressive 48-6 win over the Bulldogs.
The leader of the Dragons offense was Quwesmael Sholtz who connected with several pass completions and scored two rushing touchdowns.