Summit Tigers best Cougars, 27-15 | SummitDaily.com

Summit Tigers best Cougars, 27-15

The Summit Tigers won their second football game in as many weeks Friday, handling the Niwot Cougars 27-15 in a nonconference matchup that didn't feel nearly as close as the score might suggest.

Early on, the teams traded possessions until the Cougars (0-2) struck first, scoring on a 2-yard run with less than a minute to go in the first quarter in front of their crowd.

At that point, it looked as if Summit (2-1) might come crashing down after handily defeating Steamboat Springs the week before in Breckenridge.

"In previous years, that's when we would put our heads down," said Tigers senior Brendan Collins, who caught a 21-yard touchdown pass in traffic in the third quarter to put the game away.

"But this year, it's good," he continued. "We needed to respond to adversity (against Niwot), and we handled it just like we had been practicing all week and all year."

Down by 7, the Tigers responded on their following possession with senior Jake Gillum finding the end zone on a quarterback keeper at the goal line.

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The short run was largely set up by a 55-yard pass from Gillum to senior running back David Birmingham, and Tigers kicker Ze David Sanchez took care of the extra point, knotting the score at 7-all with 9:03 remaining in the second quarter.

"We've faced a lot of adversity this year with suspensions and a lot of players hurt, but it's next man up," lineman Sam Morgan said after the game. "We did our job, and we were successful."

Throughout the game, Summit's coaches called on their one-two backfield punch of senior running backs Dylan Lane and Birmingham. If they are the Tigers' workhorses, senior wide receiver Vale Hildebrand might be the team's stick of dynamite — and Gillum the match.

That's because after Gillum's short TD run, the Tigers found pay dirt on a swing pass from Gillum to Hildebrand that the receiver took 80 yards into the end zone.

Another extra point by Sanchez, and Summit took its first lead of the game at 14-7 with 2:35 left to play in the second quarter.

Summit quickly increased that lead too, as Hildebrand scored again on a 16-yard run with 1:33 left in the second. The snap on the extra point was bobbled, and Summit held a 13-point advantage at halftime.

In the third quarter, the Summit defense would come up big and force a Niwot punt deep within the Cougars' own territory, and the short field helped set up Gillum's TD strike to Collins.

Niwot would get a touchdown back in the fourth quarter and complete a successful two-point conversion, but at that point, the Tigers had the game well in hand and it stayed that way until the final horn.

"We were a family today, and that's why we won," Collins said after the game.

"Boy, I couldn't be more proud of them," coach John Shirkey added. "(Collins and Morgan) summed it up pretty well."

Even more impressive, the coach added, is that the Tigers were playing without two starting linemen and had to call on sophomore Dan Gonzalez, whose teammates call him "Dan G," to step in.

He had been playing tight end, but with the injuries on the line, Gonzalez was asked to step in at tackle on offense and at defensive end.

"He played both (positions) the entire game," Shirky said. "And Cade Goff, our backup guard, he stepped in, too. These are guys we asked to be ready, and they were."

The coach also specifically complimented the play of senior Nehemiah Martens on defense, who Shirkey said "changes the game for us" and "is fun to watch."

Next up for the Tigers, Summit faces Skyview at 7 p.m. Friday in Breckenridge.

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