by James Coulter
After winning the state championship earlier that week, the Lake Wales Highlanders were treated to breakfast on the house at Lake Wales Family Restaurant on Friday morning.
Most of the football players from Lake Wales High School arrived at the local diner on Friday where they were served breakfast courtesy of the former owner.
The Lake Wales Highlanders achieved victory at the state championship playing against the Daytona Mainland and winning 32-30.
“We are grateful,” Head Coach Tavaris Johnson said. “We truly are a community, and I am just thankful for homegrown Highlanders. We are truly thankful for Family Restaurant has reached out to share in this moment.”
Joining the football players that morning were several city commissioners including the mayor, all of whom offered words of encouragement to the players for achieving their victory.
“We are proud of you Lake Wales Highlanders,” said Lake Wales Mayor Jack Hilligoss. “From now on, you will be known as the Lake Wales History Makers. I told Coach Johnson this will not be the last state championship team. We appreciate you all for representing us.”
Even the Chief of the Lake Wales Police Department, Chief Chis Rodriguez, attended the breakfast that morning to commend the football players on a job well done.
“I am so proud of this community and so proud of these young men,” he said. “This is something they will never forget, that we will always be proud of them for, and we are here to honor them today and tell them congratulations and have a Merry Christmas.”
Frank Papadopoulos, the former owner of the Lake Wales Family Restaurant, retired two years ago. While he enjoys retirement, he misses being able to interact with his customers daily. His eatery has served breakfast for the Highlanders during their home games, and now he wanted to do something special again to celebrate them becoming state champions.
“This is another way to say thank you for them and congratulate them, and also wish them a Merry Christmas and how proud we are of them,” he said. “It is a tremendous honor, something big Lake Wales has never had before. We are proud of the kids and the coaches and the school.”