- August 25, 2018
Olympia High’s varsity football team — now under the direction of new head coach Travis Gabriel — had an encouraging dress rehearsal Friday night.
The Titans started fast at home in their Kickoff Classic until Lake Nona’s no-huddle offense rallied the Lions in the second half to a 38-26 victory.
Olympia returns home to start the 2018 regular season next Friday (Aug. 24) against “Backyard Bowl” rival West Orange, and Gabriel and his coaching staff will have plenty to analyze after getting a solid preseason test against a Lake Nona squad featuring Wake Forest commit Michael Kern at quarterback.
“I think the good thing to come out of this was we finished the game,” said Gabriel, who served as Boone High’s defensive coordinator for the previous four seasons. “The kids didn’t hold their heads down and we had a chance to score late to make it a six-point game.
"That’s a big deal for us; I wanted to see the kids finish the game. Now we go back to the drawing board on Monday and we reset and work on what we’ve got to work on, and I hope the kids come back with that hunger and that drive to believe that they can do this.”
Quarterback Garrett Velin directed Olympia’s shotgun spread offense against Lake Nona, throwing for two scores. He also had a running touchdown negated by a penalty with just over seven minutes remaining and the Titans trailing by 11 points.
Senior running back Taelson Jean added a 75-yard touchdown run – which at the time helped Olympia build a 20-7 lead in the first half – and Colby Kintner kicked a pair of first-quarter field goals and converted two extra points.
Olympia appeared ready to go into halftime with a 13-point cushion, but a defensive personal foul after a pass completion gave the Lions 15 additional yards and an untimed down allowed Noah Kuruc to convert a 31-yard field goal and bring Lake Nona within 20-10.
Lake Nona seized the momentum and controlled field position in a pivotal third quarter. Kern had a pair of touchdown passes to put the Lions ahead for good, 24-20, entering the fourth quarter and the lead then grew to 31-20 when the Lions scored on a 3-yard run up the middle and kicked the point after with 10:09 remaining.
“I think the third quarter really hurt us because we lost focus as a team,” Gabriel said.
Velin connected with Maurice Booker for an 18-yard touchdown with 5:02 left as the Titans closed within 31-26, but a two-point pass attempt fell incomplete. However, Lake Nona drove 75 yards in 60 seconds on the ensuing drive to close out the scoring.
"Now we go back to the drawing board on Monday and we reset and work on what we’ve got to work on, and I hope the kids come back with that hunger and that drive to believe that they can do this."
Olympia reached the Lake Nona 7-yard line inside the final minute, but the Titans turned the ball over on downs.
“This was Garrett’s first official game as a starting quarterback and he’s coming along,” Gabriel said. “He’s starting to really take control of the offense and every day I want Garrett to get better.”
The game, which featured kickoffs and punts but no special-teams returns, had Olympia go in front 3-0 on Kintner’s 45-yard field goal at the 5:55 mark of the opening quarter. Titans cornerback Jamari Kindred intercepted Kern on the next possession and returned the ball to the Lake Nona 10-yard line, setting up Kintner for a 26-yard field goal and a 6-0 lead.
Olympia upped its advantage to 13-0 on the strength of Velin’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Djim Rene with 7:38 remaining before halftime. Jean went around the right side for 75 yards later in the second quarter - moments after Kern lofted a 4-yard TD pass on fourth down to get Lake Nona on the scoreboard - and Olympia got the ball back shortly thereafter when Titans defensive back Amari Kindred swiftly forced a Lake Nona fumble at the end of a long catch-and-run play and teammate Dante Clarke recovered deep in Titans territory.