OH Football Team Wins Season Opener; Drops Second Game to Spanish River


photo by Devin Fuller

The tenacious Lions defense swarms to the St. Andrew’s ball carrier in the season opening win on Aug. 28.

Another reboot of the Olympic Heights football program, this one under new head coach Chris Kokell, got underway on Friday, Aug. 28, with a 22-13 win over the St. Andrews Scots in the 2015 season opener.

The win was the first for the Lions since Nov. 1, 2013, and serves as a confidence booster for the team as it helps to erase the memory of a disastrous 2014 season which saw the Lions lose all 10 of their games by an average score of 52-2.

An impressive defensive display coupled with a more efficient offense against St. Andrews was a considerable improvement from the preseason 41-0 loss at Port St Lucie just a week earlier, as it appeared an entirely different team stepped onto the field.

The mistake-filled contest got underway when the Scots held the Lions to a three-and-out on the opening drive and then blocked the punt and recovered it in the end zone for an early 7-0 lead. Things became more disheartening when the Lions immediately threw an interception on the next drive.

Fortunately for the Lions, the defense stepped up and forced a three and out and blocked the punt giving the offense prime field position at the Scots five-yard line. On third and goal from the one, running back Zach Exama got into the end zone for the score. Quarterback Joey Poleskey hit receiver Kerns Fortuna for the two-point conversion giving the Lions an 8-7 lead.

From that point, a dominant OH defense took over, creating turnovers and scoring points. Near the end of the first quarter, Jason Elysee recovered a blocked punt in the end zone to give OH a 15-7 lead which it took into halftime.

After a scoreless third quarter, St. Andrews closed the gap to 15-13 on a 6-yard run. In an attempt to tie the game, St. Andrews went for the two point conversion but failed to convert leaving the score OH blocked another St. Andrews punt putting themselves in good field position. With 1:38 remaining in the game, Poleskey hit Rubens Jerome for a 22-yard touchdown pass on a fourth down play. The extra point sealed the 22-13 win for the Lions.

The “win was ugly on all accounts except for how much heart the guys played with,” commented Kokell after the game. Despite the ugly nature of the win, Kokell take-away from the game was “We are tough. All you can ask for as a coach is for your players to give their all every play for four quarters.” The Lions squad certainly did that against St. Andrews.

That toughness was put to the test on Friday, Sept. 4, when the Spanish River Sharks brought their high-powered offense to Olympic Heights for the Lions’ season home-opener. A crowd of over one thousand spectators saw the Lions defense hold that Shark attack to only 14 points nearing the end of the first half.

With time running out in the first half, the Lions offense, which had struggled against a stifling Shark defense, finally got on the board with a 61-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Anthony Petillo to Exama to cut the Spanish River lead to 14-7 at the half.

Shark quarterback Owen Levine, a consensus all-county player, led his team on a third quarter attack, however, with Spanish River scoring three unanswered touchdowns.

The Lions had no answer to the Shark defense which held OH to 102 yards of total offense. The scoreless fourth quarter ended with the Lions losing their first game of the season 32-7, evening their season record at 1-1.

Despite the loss, the Lions fan base can still see that this OH team, under Kokell, is well on its way to getting things turned around and headed in the right direction.