Underclassmen step up as Olympia nears spring football game
| 11:05 p.m. May 20, 2015
With more than a dozen practices under his belt as the new head football coach at Olympia High School, Kyle Hayes has made more than a few observations about the program he will lead onto the field for its spring game against Wekiva High School on May 26.
One observation, though, may be the most important.
“To be honest, our kids love to fight — in a positive way,” Hayes said as the Titans wrapped up practice May 14. “They’re fighting to be successful. … That’s what I’m really impressed with about the team so far.”
Hayes believes that aggressive nature is important for a program making its way through an offseason transition of coaching staffs. So far, the veteran coach from South Florida has seen a pair of underclassmen step up as leaders in practice — one on offense, offensive lineman Khalif Hollis, and one on defense, linebacker George Adams.
“(Khalif) pushes everybody,” Hayes said. “The funny thing about it is, when you take the helmet off, he’s a nice little dude — put the helmet on and he’s a pit bull. George, he’s very aggressive, as well, and he’s an in-your-face kind of kid. He knows how to push guys when they need to pushed.”
Adams, a rising junior, is particularly excited to have Hayes, a defensive-minded coach, leading the way.
“Coach has really simplified a lot of things, and we’re picking it up very well,” Adams said. “We’re having a very productive spring, and we’re going to have a very productive fall. I love the defensive coach thing. He seems to communicate well with the athletes.”
That enthusiasm isn’t limited to the linebacker. Hayes has witnessed some encouraging signs from his defense in just a few weeks of spring practice.
“We actually had a couple practices where (the defense) got so into it that I actually stopped calling plays, and they just started calling their own plays,” Hayes said. “I was really excited about that after only having 12, 13 practices.”
Offensively, Hayes said the emphasis will be in keeping things simple and finding ways to efficiently get the ball in the hands of his speedy skill-position players.
Another sign that the kids on campus are taking a liking to their new coaching staff is in the numbers — Olympia has 72 kids on its spring roster.
Hollis said camaraderie among his teammates and him has been elevated so far this spring, and the energy during practice has improved.
“The team is closer than ever,” Hollis said. “It’s always exciting with (the new staff). Now, everyone loves coming to practice.”
IF YOU GO
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 26
Olympia Titans at Wekiva Mustangs
WHERE: Wekiva High School, 2501 N. Hiawassee Road, Apopka
EXTRA POINT: Titans fans get their first look at the program under the leadership of new head coach Kyle Hayes.