For the first time since 2005, the Holy Family Tigers are 3A football state champions, and for the Gabriel family, this win means everything.
Saturday’s game against Lutheran High School capped off a season rife with meaning and purpose for the Tigers, as head coach Mike Gabriel’s wife Crystal has been battling leukemia since the spring. After being down 7-8 early in the game, the Tigers turned it all around and won 33-8 in the end.
“I fought the hardest battle of my life and to have these kids be so supportive of me and my family, I just don’t have words,” Crystal Gabriel told HF Athletics. “I was so hopeful that we would make it to this point and I didn’t really know how many football games I was really going to make, but they were my inspiration and my love to be here.”
This whole season — and all the years leading up to it — was a really a family affair for the Gabriels. The Holy Family community has been rallying around them, and as they wrote on the school’s Facebook page: “It’s a great day to be a tiger.”
“It’s more than the gold trophy,” Coach Gabriel said. “I’ve been chasing this for a long time and to be able to do it with my son, it’s always more. But with all we’ve been through as a family, this is big.”