Friday night's win was the first opening-game victory for the Titans since beating West Orange to start the 2017 season.
It’s been quite a while since Olympia has won its season opener — 2017 to be exact — but the Titans ended that losing streak and took care of business in its 44-8 domination of Gateway on Friday, Sept. 25.
The Titans (1-0) were supposed to start their season last week against Windermere, but after the school was shut down due to positive cases of COVID-19 at Olympia a few weeks ago, they lost that game and were forced to wait.
Despite the wait, finally being able to take to the football field on Friday night was just as important to head coach Travis Gabriel as the actual win itself was.
“It’s been a long time coming — we’re talking about almost a year since these kids played last,” Gabriel said. “It was a great feeling for the kids just to get them out there… for two to three hours, they got to feel normal. That was the biggest thing — giving the kids a chance to play football.”
And Gabriel’s guys didn’t just play a game of football — they dominated it in front of a decent-sized crowd, while the cheer team and band cheered them on the entire night.
Meanwhile, on the field, things started off fast for the Titans.
After having a 40-yard touchdown reception by Victor Jones Jr. wiped off the board due to a penalty — one of the many that plagued Olympia throughout the night — Jones would get his score a few minutes later when quarterback C.J. Brooks Jr. hit him for a 15-yard touchdown with 8:12 left in the first quarter. The extra point by Jose Colunga made it 7-0 Titans early.
It wouldn’t be until the second quarter before the Titans scored again, but when they did the scoring came in droves.
In the second quarter the Titans racked up 17 points behind a 19-yard touchdown run by Rommarrus Hinson and a 80-yard toss from Chase Copper to Jones. Throw on a 34-yard field goal by Colunga and the Titans found themselves up 24-0 going into the break.
Throughout the first half the Titans’ defense held its own incredibly well, and it wouldn’t be until early in the third quarter that they’d give up a touchdown — which was gift wrapped to the Panthers after quarterback Copper fumbled the handoff to Hinson on the 2-yard line on the first play of the second half.
“It’s been a long time coming — we’re talking about almost a year since these kids played last. It was a great feeling for the kids just to get them out there.”
— Olympia head coach Travis Gabriel
“We’re young — we only have 12 seniors,” Gabriel said. “We’re very young, inexperienced and I already knew Gateway — they are a very, very young team — and I know the head coach, he is a great guy… so I kind of knew we had the advantage coming in because of their youth and inexperience.”
Despite the early touchdown in the second half, the Panthers wouldn't find their way into the end zone again for the rest of the night, as the Titans defense swarmed and racked up multiple turnovers — including picks by Miles Benjamin and Camryn Holmes, and a fumble recovery by Martavius Durden.
Meanwhile the Titans reeled of 13 more points in the third quarter thanks to a 1-yard touchdown by Hinson and a long ball from Brooks to Joseph Evans, before Cameron Friedman found himself on the end of a long touchdown toss from Copper in the fourth quarter to put the game on ice and induce a running clock.
With Game One now in hand, Gabriel said he’s already moved past Friday night’s win, and now it’s all about getting ready for next week’s game against Oak Ridge (1-1).
“It’s over for me — once that clock strikes zero I’m onto the next week,” Gabriel said. “I don’t watch our film because I was here, I saw what happened — I have a photogenic memory so I know when we were penalized and what we need to do to get better. My mind is on Oak Ridge, so I’m just going to go home and watch (their film).”