Summit Middle School's eighth-grade football team, 6-1 on the season, meets Eagle-Vail at the old Battle Mountain High School on Thursday to decide the league title.
So far, coach Tom Dickey is proud of his team. The players won against Buena Vista Sept. 27, 28-20, but until about four minutes left in the game, the Tigers held Buena Vista to a 28-8 score. Buena Vista made some big plays to finish strong.
"Defensively, we've had a very good year," Dickey said. "The points we gave up last night was the most we gave up at any time in the season. The most before that was 14."
Four of the seven games have been shut-outs, the coach said. Much of that is due to the defense, which has stood strong under the support of Lorenzo Patti, Harmon Daughtery, Adolfo Vasquez, Ben Tucker and Dylan Baxter. Patti and Daughtery have also been forces on the offensive line, along with Elliot Evans.
"These guys have been probably the most solid, consistent linemen of the eight we've been rotating in there," Dickey said.
In offensive movement, Dickey highlighted the play of quarterback Jake Willemson and tight end/wide receiver Eddie Jain, running backs Brian Curnutte and Luke Notoro as well as wide receiver Andre Las.
Willemson and Jain have been the playmakers this season, and have also been key on defense. Jain has four interceptions throughout the season.
"They're the two best overall skilled kids," Dickey said, adding, "They've had a lot of help from everyone else. I'm proud of our kids."
When Dickey took over the team this year, he sought to teach fundamental skills his players would need as they move into the high school.
"We're much better blockers than when we started the year," he said. "That's been one of our keys."
In particular, he's noticed that the running backs aren't very big, nor are they very fast, but the offensive line has consistently made holes for them to make plays.
The single loss for the eighth-grade team came after a day of unfocused practice, Dickey said. He recalls warning them about the following day, expressing concern that, "you play the way you practice." Sure enough, after being tied 8-8 until the last 30 seconds of the game, the Tigers lost control and lost the game.
In general, though, Dickey says, "I think I inherited a good group, and our skills have definitely gotten better."
The sixth- and seventh-grade team finished 2-5 this year, but improved as the season went on.
"The whole group has been so much fun to work with," Dickey said. "They've really worked hard and listened."
Thursday's game is at the old Battle Mountain High School, and will begin close to 6 p.m. It is eighth-grade only because the younger team didn't qualify.