After homecoming win, Summit football still has plenty to play for with road trip to Eagle Valley on deck

Dan Gonzalez breaks away down the sideline with the football in the first quarter of Summit High School's homecoming win in October 2019 against Western Slope rival Battle Mountain at Tiger Stadium in Breckenridge.
Photo by Liz Copan / Summit Daily archives

BRECKENRIDGE – Last Friday night under the lights at Tiger Stadium was about as close to a make-or-break game as their could have been for the Summit High School varsity football team. Their record then standing at 1-4 on the heels of four consecutive losses, it was truly the pivotal moment of the season.

In front of a homecoming crowd in cold conditions, the Tigers, healthy for the first time in weeks, leaned on a 5-man defensive front and creative play calls and strategies on offense to race out to an early 14-0 lead over Battle Mountain. By the end of the night, quarterback Cam Kalaf showed consistency reading his keys on the speed option and read option and Summit’s Bear front of five down linemen confused Battle Mountain’s run blocking and pass protections, as Summit improved to 2-4 with a 35-12 win.

Perhaps more importantly though, the win put the Tigers at 1-0 in 3A Western Slope League play. So, yes, Summit lost by wide margins against the likes of Woodland Park, Moffat County Conifer and Elizabeth. But with the Battle Mountain win in the bag and four more league games upcoming to finish the season, they have everything left to play for. That potentially could even include a league title, as Palisade has the best record in the league at just 3-3.

“It was big program win, big for us in terms of momentum for our season,” Tigers head coach James Wagner said. “Our kids are so dialed in. Had we lost, who knows where we’d be at if we hadn’t pulled a win out there. They just knew how important that game was and they came out fired up.”

“Don’t count us out,” the coach added, “we have a lot of season left.”

First up for Summit is Friday evening’s 7 p.m. road trip to Eagle Valley (2-4). Against the Devils, the Tigers will look to repeat a lot of what worked for them last week against Battle Mountain. That included a touchdown to start the game, after Wagner elected to receive the ball, where Kalaf found tight end Daniel Gonzalez on a 25-yard fade from Summit’s hurry-up offense.

The Tigers also balanced that explosiveness with the efficiency of a 16-play drive that spanned the first and second quarters. After chewing up eight minutes of clock, Kalaf capped of the drive with a quarterback sneak for a 14-0 lead. Wagner commended Tigers offensive coordinator Sean Mase for his play calling on Friday, including creative pre-snap shifts on one touchdown pass where emptying Jackson Veeneman out of the backfield opened up Gonzalez for his second receiving touchdown of the night.

On the defensive end, savvy senior Alex Sanchez was the key variable in the Bear front alternating between linebacker and defensive line. Aside from one big touchdown play on a tunnel screen and a kick return for a touchdown, Summit’s defense and special teams contained Battle Mountain all night, particularly their power running game.

Against Eagle Valley, Wagner and Mase again will have the option of drawing up plays where they can pair Kalaf’s dual-threat ability with Veeneman, Sanchez and even Gonzalez in the backfield. The tight end, after all, ran in a jet sweep for a touchdown last Friday night.

Defensively may be where the game is won or lost, though, as against Eagle Valley’s varying formations Wagner has schooled the Tigers on the Devils’ tendencies for run or pass. Aiding Summit’s D in defending will be a new strategy, where Summit’s players use special wristbands to read and react to the formations they are recognizing.

The Tigers also appear healthy on both lines of scrimmage, including the continued return of Jackson Segal’s presence on the interior despite a lingering bone bruise on his foot. Segal and the Tiger line paired with dialed in Al Espinoza at linebacker, heady players Aidan Collins and Alexi Nevarez at safety and the athletic Kalaf at cornerback sets Summit’s D up for success.

“It’s in their hands if they want it,” Wagner said.

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