Eagles keep rolling in playoffs
Three of the Highlands Eagles teams played in the first playoff round on Saturday. Teams were split up into two host locations with the Flag team playing in Plant City and the Junior Varsity and Varsity teams playing in Haines City. Coach Steve Remes' sixth seeded Flag team faced the third seeded Lakeland Destroyers team in Plant City. The Eagles Flag team came out with a purpose on offense led by quarterback Max Gagnon, Josh Hernandez, Leon Harris and Damari Cohen. Cohen quickly led the Eagles to an early lead with a touchdown. The Destroyers answered with a touchdown of their own to make it a 7-6 game.The Eagles offense was successful again with Harris scoring another touchdown for the Eagles. The defense came out strong led by Keldrice Legree, DeAngelo Cohen, Hernandez, Gagnon and Jayce Collier in hopes of thwarting the Destroyers efforts to gain some ground. The Destroyers again responded with a touchdown going into halftime with a 14-12 lead. In the second half, The Eagles followed another Destroyers score when the offense found the end zone on a completed pass from Gagnon to Harris to make it 20-18. Harris scored again but the touchdown was called back due to rules regarding players can only score two touchdowns per game in the flag division. Frustrated the Eagles defense went to work but ultimately the inclement weather and the strong offensive drive by the Destroyers brought a disappointing loss for this Eagles team with a final score of 33-18. Unfortunately with this loss, this eliminated the Flag team from moving on and ended their season with a final record of 4-6. The reigning 2012 Junior Varsity Super Bowl champion's team coached by Cliff Howell and currently seeded fourth in the division traveled to Haines City to take on the on fifth seeded Haines City Rattlers. The Eagles scored as quarterback Norris Taylor Jr. completed a pass to Kevin Rivera in the end zone for a touchdown that was called back for a penalty. The Eagles defense took the field led by Kevin Webb, Joel Murillo, Austin Oppold and Jordan Rose, they quickly shut down the Rattlers offensive drive. The JV offense led by Kasey Hawthorne, Austin Garza, Joey Picior, Jonathan Robinson and Marquis Hawthorne helped plow the way for fullback Geo Gonzalez who drove up the middle to score a touchdown for the Eagles to take an early lead 6-0. Norris completed a sort pass to Kasey Hawthorne who ran for 55 yards to the end zone but it was called back for a holding penalty. The Eagles team, frustrated with the costly penalties causing three touchdowns to be called back, rallied together to get back on track. In the Rattlers next offensive drive, Murillo going in for the tackle popped the ball out and it was intercepted by Kasey and taken back 40 yards to the end zone and the extra point was scored by Taylor to bring the score to 13-0. The Rattlers responded and was able to get points on the board just before halftime. Going into the second half with a score of 13-7 and the Rattlers receiving the ball, quickly capitalized on a drive resulting in another score with a 2-point conversion to take the lead of the game, 15-13. It quickly became a defensive battle between these teams with the Eagles shutting down the Rattlers and Taylor was able to get the ball to Kasey to score another touchdown giving the Eagles the win with a final score of 19-15 which moves them on to the second round of the playoffs. The JV Eagles will be facing the first seeded Lakeland Hurricanes in the championship round. Coach Nick Bailey's fifth seeded Varsity team took on the forth seeded Haines City Rattlers. Earlier in the season, the Eagles were defeated by the Rattlers 12-0 and this team was looking for some redemption. The Rattlers won the toss and during their initial offensive drive, Rafael Smith caused a fumble to be recovered by Tremaine Hawthorne to take it back 30 yard to the end zone to take an early 6-0 lead. The Eagles offense led by Christian Rivera, Rafael Smith and Tremaine Hawthorne rallied together to get a drive going but they quickly met a strong Rattler's defense. The Eagles defense led by Rodrigo Nolan, Nate Smith, Chris Nolan, Anthony Healy, Tyler Edwards and Jared Lasa dug in deep and thwarted all the efforts of the Rattlers with key tackles made by Rodrigo, Rafael Smith and Hawthorne. This game quickly became a defensive battle between these two teams going into halftime 6-0. The second half continued the defensive battles with Lasa getting an interception and key tackles to thwart the Rattlers advances by Healy, Nate Smith and Hawthorne. The next offensive drive for the Eagles was successful with Rafael Smith driving 30 yards for key first downs and Hawthorne scored around the end for his second touchdown of the day to take the lead with a score of 12-0. As the game moved into the fourth quarter, the Rattlers broke free for a run but Rafael Smith chased the runner down 50 yards to tackle him at the 20-yard line and the Eagles defensive goal-line stance did not allow for a Rattlers score all day. The Eagles team was successful in defeating the Rattlers with a final score of 12-0 and moving on to the second round of the playoffs. The Varsity team will be taking on the first seeded Lakeland Patriots in the championship round. The Highlands Youth Football & Cheer Organization (HYFC) will be traveling to the second round of the Sunshine PAL Playoffs on Saturday in Auburndale at Westwood Middle School, Avenue G NW & 35th St NW, Winter Haven. Junior Varsity game will begin at 1 p.m. and Varsity at 3 p.m. Admission is $5 for Adults and $4 for Children and $3 for Parking. Winners of the championship game will determine who will be moving on to the Super bowl on Nov. 16. Come on out to support the Eagles organization and enjoy a day of good competitive youth football games this weekend.