OLYMPIC HEIGHTS FALL SPORTS PREVIEW: Football team off to 1-0 start as fall sports programs get underway

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Senor Isaiah Pierre (#6) heads to the end zone after intercepting a John I. Leonard pass on the Lancers’ opening series in the Olympic Heights season opener on Sept. 2. The Lions beat John I. Leonard 22-14.

The 2021 Olympic Heights fall athletics season is now in full swing. The student-athletes on the fall sports teams have worked hard throughout all of last year and over the summer in preparation for their seasons. Now is the time where the athletes will put forward all of this hard work to achieve their goals. As they do every year, our OH sports teams will go out and make us proud. 

OH athletic director Chris Holly sends a message to all of his student-athletes from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, which states that “success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.” Holly feels that the sky’s the limit for all of our athletes, and the most important thing is to stay humble and work hard. 

FOOTBALL: The OH football team is off to a 1-0 start after beating John I. Leonard 22-14 on Sept. 2, in a delayed season opener after the scheduled season-opener of August 26 against Park Vista amid COVID-19 concerns for both teams. The win over John I. Leonard featured a strong defensive effort by the Lions’ defense, featuring an interception return for a touchdown by senior defensive back/running back Isaiah Pierre on the Lancers’ first possession of the game. However, the OH offense struggled, squandering several scoring opportunities due to dropped passes, turnovers, and penalties. 

Nevertheless, the win got the Coach Brandon Knight era off to a good start. Knight, last season’s defensive coordinator, took over the head coaching position after former head coach Kevin Wald’s departure. In the preseason Kickoff Classic, the Lions easily dispatched Taravella 27-0 on August 19. 

Perhaps, the lackluster offensive performance in the win over John I. Leonard can be attributed to the team having to go over a week without practice due to the COVID-19 concerns. Knight explained that while the team could not practice, “players took their pads and helmets home to work on stuff on their own.” Knight added that if there are any future issues during the season, players can study film from previous games to learn from mistakes, and they can also practice on their own at home to prepare, still putting in the work.

With the departure of Coach Wald, the team is shifting from a spread offensive style to more of a pro-style offense. This means that senior starting quarterback Zach McCormick will spend more time under center rather than in the shotgun formation. Knight also stated that “there will be a 50-50 balance between the pass and the run.” Knight has no doubt that McCormick will have no problem with the offensive scheme change because of McCormick’s athleticism and toughness.

Knight remarked that McCormick has a great arm and “can make pretty much all of the throws.” McCormick also has the confidence of his teammates who saw how he has worked hard and demonstrated his leadership ability over the summer. This led to the team voting McCormick a team captain after passing him over the spring practice season. 

Despite the struggles in the season opener, Knight feels that “as the season goes on, the offense will be very explosive.” Knight notes that the team has a very tough schedule ahead of them, and the goal is to “win the city of Boca and get into the playoffs.”  

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Head Coach Lindsey Adams points to her returning players as the key to a successful season. Those players include seniors Rebekah Beauparlant, Lauren Finely, and Hannah Zerbo. Junior Isabella Anusbigian and sophomores Ellie Poloskey and Lauren O’Donnell are also key returners. Senior Samantha Costlow is a new addition to the team this year. Adams explained that the team had “been conditioning in the weight room and working hard on the court for about a month to prepare for the season.” Adams also made it clear that the team has “got a lot of talent this year, so making sure the kids are in shape and working to become more competitive in practice is our key to success this year.” 

This year, it will be very important for the team to build on team chemistry and work on ways to close out the last set. Adams stated, “We aren’t used to being competitive with tougher teams, and now that we are hanging in there and really competing, the main goal is to start off strong in that last set and close it out.” 

After losing its first five matches of the season, the team notched a 3-0 win over Atlantic on Sept. 9. The team is hoping that the win will be the first of many to come. 

BOYS AND GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY: Head Coach James Drake is looking forward to an improved OH cross country team, saying he “would like to see everyone break their previously set [personal] records. ”The key returning runners are juniors Zachary Samson and Kai Jannes, as well as sophomores Adrianna Falcone Lola Kevitch. Drake said that one “new athlete that will make an impact should be [junior]  Jacob Weiner, who ran as a freshman but did not run last season, Drake also mentions sophomore Mitchell Cudworth, who just moved to Florida from Texas, as a key addition. “We have several athletes from other sports that are training hard and should be able to make some leaps in their running as the season progresses,” Drake added.

The team has been working hard on distance running and speed work to improve their abilities to close a race. They are scheduled to compete in the Park Vista Invitational, the Spanish River Invitational, and districts. They will go head to head with Palm Beach Central and Pine Crest. 

BOYS AND GIRLS SWIMMING: Coach Jim Cappello looks to “advance more swimmers in County’s, conferences and especially districts.  We are in a new large district that includes most of the Palm Beach County schools, including powerhouses Boca Raton, Jupiter, Park Vista, Wellington, and Spanish River.  We are hoping to stay competitive with these teams and see how far we can go.” 

The key returning swimmers include seniors Santiago Rikeros, Valeria Centeno, and Kathleen Flory. New swimmers to the team that look to make a large contribution are seniors Dale Fry and sophomores Hannah Rogers and Lauren VanHousen. The team has been pushing each other so far this season and they are staying focused on their season and all of their goals, according to Cappello.  

In the team’s first meet on Sept. 10, Rogers had the best finish for the girls taking second place in the 100 breaststroke, and Caio Miyake took second for the boys in the 100 butterfly.  

BOYS GOLF: As the boys hit the tee, Head Coach Bryan says, “Mason Silverstein and Jack Panos [both juniors] are two athletes who are returning that I expect a lot from. They both are hardworking kids who love golf and I’m excited to see their hard work pay off.” The addition of standout freshmen Sebastian Ayala gives the team a great look to win it all in the next few years. 

In preparation for this season, Coach Lejuene explains that “with golf, the guys are forced to prepare themselves; we can only accomplish so much in the few weeks before the season starts. Most of the guys spent the summer getting ready, and it shows!” 

As the team will go up against schools such as Boca Raton and Spanish River, Lejuene feels like “being competitive is our main goal. “As a first-year coach with the program, I think building a foundation is the most important thing,” Lejuene added. “We spend our practices working to figure out how we can do something today that makes us better tomorrow.”

GIRLS GOLF: “Our goal is to win a few matches and improve our golf skills,” Head Coach Vanessa Koher explains. Key returning golfers for the girls are seniors Qandil Haji and Kayla Martial, junior Gudalupe Fernandez, and sophomore Ashley Daniels. Junior Claire Deyoe is a new addition to the team.

BOYS AND GIRLS BOWLING: Head Coach Linda Pearson wants the players to improve their bowling averages throughout the entire season, come away with as many points as possible, and strive for Regional and State competition. The most important thing, says Pearson, is to “learn about competition and teamwork while having fun” as they practice to get ready for the season. 

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