The Lake Wales Highlander football team is always given a pep-talk before a Friday night game by both Coach Shafer and the team Chaplain Scott Markley. Some inspiring words were given before the strong showing and victory by the Highlanders over rival Bartow last Friday evening.
The team chaplain prays for the team, reads a relevant passage scripture, and gives an encouraging word to the team that is designed to focus both their heart and their mind for the upcoming game. First Baptist Church Pastor Scott Markley serves in this role.
Chaplain Scott said to the team after losing the two previous games, “You have a chance at restoration to win tonight.” He then quoted famous Green Bay Packer Coach Vince Lombardi, “The real glory is to get knocked to your knees and then come back.” He continues his theme, “Each one will do their part. What is in the past doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is tonight.”
Next, the team hears from their head coach, Rod Shafer. He says, “You practiced well last week and this week. However, last week you didn’t finish the game and lost intensity. You can’t respect others if you can’t respect yourself.” He then went on to discuss the 1993 team who went on to win the State Championship. He said the only difference between this team and the ‘93 team is that “they wanted it.”
“You’re as good as anyone in the state in this class,” says Shafer.
Next, he focuses the team on playing through to the end without quitting. Coach continues, “If you quit in one sport, you’ll quit in another. If you loaf on one play we’re pulling you out. You have got to have pride in yourself. You got to play every down. You’re difference makers. You got to make a difference.”
A little later after the meeting with the players, Coach entertained an interview. He focused on finals beginning the week ahead.
“There are 96 teams playing after tonight and Lake Wales is one of the 96,” he said.
“Bartow (who Lake Wales was to play that evening) is finished for the season after tonight. They would have had to beat Winter Haven.”
The previous week, the Yellow Jackets narrowly lost in a very close game against Winter Haven. The Jackets lost by only two points. Their annual rivalry game against Lake Wales was the last of their season.
Coach Shafer continues, “Seven of our fifteen seniors play both ways a lot. However, injuries seem to always keep someone (from the senior class) out of a game. The juniors are a good class but a small class.”
Coach was also very concerned about the mental affects of mistakes on his players. He said, “Mistakes have hurt the team and they haven’t gotten over it.” He felt that the game against Winter Haven was a game that they should have won but lost in the 4th quarter. Mentally, this loss seemed to carry over to the following week’s loss against Auburndale.
The team will face Bradenton Southeast High School in the play-offs on Friday, Nov. 16 of this week. The Highlanders will have to win on the road as the loss against Auburndale caused the team to lose its home-field advantage for the play-offs. A win by both the Highlanders and by Auburndale in their first play-off game could mean that they would face each other again in the weeks ahead.
Team Chefs: Keith & Krista Thompson
Team pre-game meals are thanks to the Lake Wales boosters as well as the diligent weekly efforts of Krista & Keith Thompson. Each week Keith cooks the meal and Krista facilitates making sure that all is organized and served. And feeding a football team, with kids who may over 200 and some nearing even 300 pounds, that’s no easy task. Each Friday around 3:30 or 4 p.m., they can be found on the serving line, along with a cadre of student team-manager volunteers, dishing up the plates one at a time.
To them, preparing and then serving a pre-game meal is a way to give back to the community and the high school they love. Both of them are graduates of Lake Wales High School. Their daughter is also a recent graduate. While it may have been tempted by the allure of another school’s IB program, which Lake Wales High didn’t have at the time, they stayed the course. For this couple, their heart is in only one place — Lake Wales.
Krista is the Title I Facilitator at Lake Wales High School after having transferred from Bok Academy with Principal Donna Dunson. Keith, a former pastor who has previously served as an associate pastor for a church in South Carolina and also for a church in Lake Wales, now has a business in the Lake Wales downtown. He considers his business, which is called Beans & Brushes, an outreach of his Christian faith. Keith explained that he sees business as a tool in which he can impact and reach people in the community for Jesus Christ. He even coined a new term that he calls “businesstry.” He stated, “I’ve found my niche in businesstry. The business gives us a chance to impact people’s lives and be a part of the Lake Wales cultures and traditions- and is a lot of fun!”