After season-opening win, Summit High football confident before stiff home challenge vs. Moffat County
BRECKENRIDGE – Last week, for the first time since 2016, the Summit High Tigers varsity football team opened their season with a victory. This week, though, first-year head coach James Wagner knows the Tigers are in for a stiffer schematic challenge when they take on talented Moffat County at Tiger Stadium in Breckenridge at 7 p.m.
Looking back at the game tape from last week’s 50-28 win over Salida, Wagner said the film showed that Summit came out and played with effort and resiliency throughout the entire game.
“Every time Salida scored on us, we responded with a score of our own,” Wagner said. “When they would score, we responded with a greater response and that just put them out of the game.”
It’s that mentality — of always being ready to respond with more than the opponent dishes out — that Wagner hopes the Tigers (1-0, 0-0 3A Western Slope League) will continue to exhibit against the Bulldogs on Friday night. Preparing for the Bulldogs has been similar to preparing for another season-opening opponent for the Tigers, since Moffat County has yet to play this season. Despite that the Tigers have no official game film to go off of, Summit is well aware the Bulldogs are a well-coached squad on both sides of the ball. They are a team that took it to the Tigers 40-7 last year up in Craig.
Last year the Bulldogs offense was led by a collection of players no longer with the program. That included departed senior quarterback Colby Beaver, who threw for three touchdowns and ran for one touchdown to lead a senior-heavy offense.
That said, Wagner and the Tigers are well aware Moffat County’s likely starter at quarterback Friday night, 6-foot-3, 180-pound sophomore Ryan Peck, is a talented enough passer to challenge Summit’s 4-2-5 defense. Moffat County is also scheduled to return senior running back Kevin Hernandez, who led the Bulldogs ground game last year against the Tigers for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries, including a 41-yard scamper.
“They are young, but they are well coached,” Wagner said. “I like some of the things that they are doing offensively and defensively, as well. They share some of the similar philosophy of getting kids in space to try to let athletes make plays.”
The good news for Summit is that Wagner and the Tigers coaching staff feel confident in their offensive and defensive lines after assessing last week’s film. Wagner said the Tigers fired off the ball well last week, winning the battle in the trenches while senior offensive guard Al Espinoza did well blocking downfield at the second level. Summit this year is leaning on Espinoza and ferocious sophomore Jackson Siegel at guard, as well as senior captain Zayden “Ziggy” Gerry and senior Jack Renner at the offensive tackle positions.
In the center of the line, sophomore Graham Kalaf is snapping the ball to his older brother, junior quarterback Cam Kalaf. Wagner said the brothers have combined well thus far at the nucleus of the offense. Graham, who played guard last season, has provided the athleticism and leadership necessary as the vocal leader of the O-line.
“They kind of feed off each other and it’s a unique situation for them to be in the position they are,” Wagner said of the brothers. “It’s a cool opportunity.”
On the defensive side, Wagner also said he was proud the Tigers graded out at 85% on film for their pursuit of the football. The Tigers coaching staff wants 11 helmets flying to the ball on each defensive play, no matter where it goes on the field.
Sept. 6: vs. Moffat County, L 41-8
Sept. 13: vs. Conifer, L, 56-19
Sept. 20: at Woodland Park, L, 49-10
Sept. 27: at Elizabeth, L, 38-0
Oct. 11-12: Homecoming – vs. Battle Mountain, W, 35-12
Oct. 18: at Eagle Valley, L, 12-7
Oct. 25: at Steamboat Springs, W, 19-7
Nov. 1: vs. Glenwood Springs, L, 36-30
Nov. 8: at Palisade, L, 42-6
The Tigers will also return this week to their offensive and defensive attacks senior weak safety Alexi Urtusuastegui-Nevarez, playing at a critical spot in that 4-2-5. The senior leader’s return also means Summit will have an added weapon through the air offensively. It also means the Tigers’ defensive line will be back to full strength, as Renner will move back to defensive end this week after filling in well at weak safety last week.
Back on the offensive side, a week after junior wide receiver Kobe Cortright broke loose for five catches, including two touchdowns, for 169 yards, Wagner said the Tigers will look to spread it out via the air again. And, a weak after he returned a kickoff for a touchdown before it was called back for a blocking penalty, Wagner expects a strong week for sophomore slot receiver Aidan Collins.
The dual-threat Cam Kalaf will be throwing to that receiving corps despite recovering from a banged-up wrist. Cam Kalaf threw for 218 yards last week on 10-of-14 passing, with three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.
The Tigers offense will likely again lean on creating matchup advantages off of their jet-sweep motion, with plenty of playmakers surrounding that offensive action. Those playmakers include burly senior tight end Daniel Gonzalez, who will look to build off his strong receiving performance last week, which included one touchdown and one 2-point conversion.
“It’s the same philosophy of getting our athletes in space,” Wagner said. “And doing it in a creative way to utilize our strengths.”
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