GW Graham grad Gabe Olivares is getting the chance to lead a U-Sports football program, and he’s making the most of it.
After throwing 22 passes as a backup through the first four weeks of the season, Olivares got his first start at quarterback for the UBC Thunderbirds in a Sept. 28 home game against the University of Alberta.
He played well in a losing effort, completing 24 of 33 attempts for 195 yards and two touchdowns in a 40-20 defeat.
But Air Olivares took flight over the next two weeks.
The 20 year old threw for 353 yards in a 33-28 road win against the Regina Rams, and had 376 yards and two TDs Oct. 19 in a stunning 38-37 upset of the Saskatchewan Huskies.
Olivares led a late scoring drive capped by an 11 yard Garrin McDonnell field goal to give the T-Birds the W against a Huskies team that had a 4-2 record coming in.
“The game against Sask was insane, with so many ups and downs,” Olivares said. “Coming off the win in Regina and getting to rest a little bit thanks to the bye week, there was definitely a sense of confidence and belief in one another.
“The O-line protected unbelievably, every receiver made plays and none less than Jacob Patten who got top offence performance of the week out of the whole country after that game.”
The Thunderbirds ended their season last weekend in a game that wasn’t as good for Olivares or his team. UBC was beaten 36-17 by the Calgary Dinos, the top team in the Canada West standings.
“Through my first four starts in the CIS (U-Sports) there has definitly been adversity along the way,” Olivares acknowledged. “The Canada West conference is no joke and you have to earn every single yard as nothing will be given to you.
“I think I have proven that I can play in this league but I am not happy or satisfied with how our season went and I am personally going to train my butt off to get into better shape for next season, leading by example in the gym and on the field.”
While coach Blake Nill would never offer any guarantees, you’d have to think Olivares’ recent efforts should give him a leg up in the battle to be the T-Birds’ top pivot next fall.
“Coach Nill is always going to bring in new players and create more competition, as it should be,” Olivares said. “All I can do for myself and the team is to use this extra month of the off-season we now have to physically and mentally start preparing for next season in the film room, gym, and the field as I continue to strengthen my bonds with teammates and I.”
As a group, the T-Birds are very young. Sixty per cent of the players who dressed down the stretch were in their first or second year of eligibility.
“Which means we have a real chance if we can attack the near future with urgency as we grow closer,” Olivares noted. “Adding new additions to help impact the team and create a more competitive environment.”
His former coach at Adam Smith has no doubt Olivares will succeed.
“I think it is amazing how great he has done in his first four starts at the U-Sports level,” Smith said. “I am not surprised at all that he is having success as he is a very competitive hard working kid.
“We talked earlier in the year and I loved Gabe’s attitude. He knew that he needed to be ready if he got a chance to start and man was he ready. Love that kid and proud of him and all the work he put in to earn this chance.”