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Updated: 10/04/2012 08:00:37AM

High Standards of Excellence

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Lake Wales Tony Reeves finds himself "leg-locked" by George Jenkins player #7 during Friday night's game at George Jenkins High School.


Senior Tate Mathewson, 18, warms up for Friday's match-up between the Lake Wales Highlanders and the George Jenkins Eagles.


The ending pose in Lake Wales pre-game performance on Friday at George Jenkins by the Marching Highlanders.


The Scottish dancers perform at the beginning of the game Friday night at George Jenkins High School, joined by the Lake Wales Highlander Band.


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As of press time Friday, the George-Jenkins vs. Lake Wales game was not yet complete. Below is the remaining 4th quarter coverage. For complete-coverage of the game, please also refer to last Saturday’s sports edition.

With 1:30 left to go in Fridays Highlander Football game against the Eagles, the Highlanders now at the 30-yard line score a touch-down by quarter-back Railond Garrett. Tate Mathewson came to the rescue with the extra-point, hitting the track behind the field to increase the Highlander’s lead to 17 over the Eagles.

Then with less than one-minute of regulation play to go, the Eagles have to go to the air. They complete a ten-yard pass play. On the next play, pass-interference is called on the Highlander defense as Odum sends a pass long and incomplete. A bad snap by the Eagles center sends the ball back but is recovered by Odum. A final play by the Eagles ends all hopes to bring them a score. The Eagles are shut-out by Lake Wales by a final score of 0-17.

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High standards are the expectation of the players. The coaching staff demonstrates such high-standards themselves with an extremely high degree of dedication to their players and to the game of football itself. All coaches put in more than just the hours of practice with the team each day. There are also hours of watching film to see areas of strength and improvement for their players, as well as film of their upcoming opponent for the week, in order to map out the coaching strategy for the upcoming practices for the week. This all adds up to time that the coaches must spend away from their children, family members, friends and loved ones.

After the game, Coach Rod Shafer says he “is a perfectionist.” He then stated, as was his weekly routine, that he had planned to watch film from the game, only minutes ago completed, until about 2:30 a.m. And after just a few hours of sleep, after being already sleep-deprived from the rigors of a current schedule which allows him only about 4 hours per night during the week, he would wake again around 5 a.m. on a Saturday for his morning devotions prior to meeting up with a Mulberry coach in which they would swap game-film at the local Lake Wales McDonald’s at 6:30 a.m. Next on the docket for Saturday morning is a brief scheduled meeting with the assistant coaches at 7 a.m. It is at this short but important meeting in which copies of the newly acquired game-film will be distributed to each of the coaches. For several hours on Saturday, they will each work from their home to study the film sometime during their one full day-off for the week.

And for Coach Shafer, all of this activity will take place very early in the day before squeezing in a little bit of well-deserved and much needed free-time to play a few rounds of golf at 8 a.m. On Sundays, after teaching Sunday School at First Baptist Church in Lake Wales come 9 a.m. each Sunday morning, Coach Shafer will be back to work coaching football. At 2 p.m. each Sunday afternoon, he and a number of assistant coaches will meet together at the high-school for several hours to go over game film that they each studied individually the day before.

In talking with some of the coaches on the Highlander football staff, some of their concerns with the team’s performance so far this year are with their soundness of fundamentals. Fumbling the football has been a problem area in the Highlander’s running game. This is an area in which the coaches greatly desire to see improved in their players on both sides of the ball — offense and defense. This is a particular concern with offensive players involved in the running game. Maintaining ball security is something that the coaches have been stressing over and over again with the players. They are working very hard to address this issue with the offensive players found to be a little looser with the football than they would like to see happen out on the field.

Also offensively, some of the receivers are still working out some kinks in positioning themselves properly on the field. Balancing out the offense by increasing success with pass plays called during the games is a high-priority for Coach Shafer. Currently, Lake Wales is demonstrating in their game performance a great strength with the running game. While the running game is an important part of the veer offense run by Lake Wales, being able to gain yardage through the air is something Coach Shafer really desires to see improve. It is definitely on his mind and agenda as he works to further develop his quarterback and receivers.

Coach Shafer has along with him a team of very dedicated coaches, some of them with a variety of experience that they bring to the game. One of his assistants, Coach Mike Lee (strength and conditioning, Wide-Receivers coach) has previously served as head-coach himself at a high school back in his native state of Ohio. At one point, due to a former player he had once coached who was then an assistant college football coach under Urban Meyer while he was at Bowling Green in Ohio, Coach Lee traveled to the college campus where he would spend many hours studying Coach Meyer’s offensive approach to football. Another Highlander coach, Miles Bilinski (offensive-line coach), was a part of the coaching staff at Armwood High School for a number of years. Armwood is a large Tampa Bay area school known for having a very large and dominant football program. Both coaches Tavaris Johnson (defensive backs) and Scott York (kickers) pull double-duty with the young Bok Academy middle-school football program. The Bok program produces many future Highlanders as it is a feeder school to Lake Wales High School. The remaining assistant coaches include: Bob Urwin (defensive coordinator), Ron Johnson, Sam Bilante, Kindreek Williams, Mike Williamson, Louie Greenwald, Chak Alexander, Matt Teague, Burney Hayes and Marv Pavy.

All of Coach Shafer’s assistants routinely put in what often approaches the number of duty hours spent teaching during the day. Each coach has a full-load of classes that they teach that comes before their coaching duties. This means that each coach has the equivalent of an additional full-time job to perform in order to do what is necessary to produce a strong and well-prepared football team. It is readily apparent and easily observed that what motivates them is their sheer enjoyment for the game of football and a desire to positively influence the lives of the kids that they coach. There are also volunteer coaches on staff who also add many additional hours to their schedules in addition to their regular employment and do so for exactly the same reasons.

This above and beyond dedication to attention to detail is demonstrated by a degree of football fundamentals that opposing teams not as well-coached will simply not have. While other opponents may be struggling with basics such as lining up correctly in formation, the level of coaching attention the Lake Wales players receive often gives them a clear advantage in the games that they face.

Aiming towards perfection and excellence is a driving ambition for Coach Shafer and his coaching staff. In order to attain game-play to a level of excellence, it takes hours of extra-time of preparation that both Coach Shafer and his core group of assistants all routinely put into their coaching. Their hopeful end-result is to have a group of Highlander football players who have been influenced by their example of such type of dedication and come away with a desire themselves to strive for a higher level of excellence themselves — both on and off the field.