The Titans fell 31-14 to the Boone Braves in their annual spring football game, which was also the debut of new head coach Travis Gabriel. Despite that, Olympia showed some positives in defeat.
Reflecting in the moments after his first full spring as a head coach came to a close, Olympia High’s Travis Gabriel offered a succinct directive for his football program going forward.
“Work — we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Gabriel said. “We’re resetting. Over here at Olympia, it’s a reset.”
Gabriel’s debut leading the Titans — a 31-14 loss to the Boone Braves, the team for whom he was formerly the defensive coordinator, May 11 — saw positives and negatives to build upon and learn from entering the summer.
Initially, Olympia raced out to a 14-0 lead, beginning with Tealson Jean scoring on a 70-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Later, after the Titans forced a fumble and Trey Bridges recovered, Garret Velin connected with Josh Hughes for a touchdown pass that put Olympia up by two touchdowns.
That was the end of the highlights for the Titans, though, as the Braves would score 28 unanswered points through the conclusion of varsity play — which lasted three quarters — before adding a field goal during the junior-varsity fourth quarter.
Still, Gabriel and his staff felt there were encouraging instances to take away following the conclusion of the spring season.
“I like the way we started out on both sides, offense and defense, and I liked that we stayed composed and had discipline,” Gabriel said. “(The difference was) up front — Boone is legit up front on both sides of the football.”
When Gabriel accepted the job at Olympia, he inherited a program set to graduate several of its key playmakers on offense from 2017 — with quarterback Joe Milton, a Michigan signee, chief among them. A handful of players also transferred.
The Titans made the playoffs in consecutive seasons in 2016 and 2017, but former coach Kyle Hayes was dismissed in December after three seasons at the helm.
At the time, Athletic Director Aaron Crawford said the program would move in a different direction and that it would seek out a coach who would put his “student-athletes in a position to compete for district and state championships, create opportunities for college participation and, most importantly, grow as young … gentlemen.”
Gabriel, a well-respected defensive coordinator throughout Central Florida, was the choice of Crawford, Olympia Principal Guy Swenson and the administration to take on that task.
Now that he and his staff have had a full spring to begin to install their system — and culture — he credits the program’s returning players for embracing a different way of doing things.
“Kids adapt easily,” Gabriel said. “I think, as a team, they’re gelling better and they’re getting better.”
Olympia will host Lake Nona Aug. 17 in its kickoff classic, before hosting West Orange in its regular-season opener Aug. 24.