Despite defensive effort, Summit football can’t complete comeback at Eagle Valley
GYPSUM — The Summit High School varsity football team gutted through a competitive road contest at Eagle Valley Friday night before their comeback effort fell short in a 12-7 loss.
“This was a tough one for us to lose,” Summit head coach James Wagner said. “Our kids played outstanding football all night long, and that was the most fired up and passionate I’ve seen our kids play.”
The Tigers (2-5, 1-1 3A Western Slope) fell behind early, as the Devils (3-4, 1-1) exhibited efficiency over an 8-minute, 80-yard opening drive. The Devils punctuated that opening drive with a 25-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 by quarterback Will Geiman.
Then on Summit’s first offensive play of the game, Eagle Valley intercepted a Cam Kalaf pass at Summit’s 36 yard line. Powered by runs by Daniel Gallegos and Kodi Raper, Eagle Valley set up a Geiman touchdown pass to senior Matt Lee on a slant route on third down. The score put Eagle Valley up 12-0 with two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
From there on out, Wagner was proud of the way his team played, specifically the stout effort by a dogged defense and resilience despite setbacks for the Tigers’ offense.
“Our guys rose to the occasion every time we asked them to,” Wagner said. “Our guys played lights out on defense after that, and they didn’t even come close to sniffing the end zone. We played so stinking good on defense, we were aggressive up front and we tackled as a team. Al Espinosa had an incredible game.”
The senior backer Espinosa led the schematic adjustments Summit made after the first two drives, playing downhill and sideline to sideline from the linebacker position. Wagner said he amassed at least 15 tackles. Wagner also was proud of the battle the interior of the Tigers’ defensive line provided for the remainder of the game, as Summit forced several turnover-on-downs for the Devils.
The defensive consistency in containing Eagle Valley provided the Summit offense a chance to claw back into the game. To do so, Summit leaned on the junior quarterback Kalaf and his dual-threat skills.
Running the football, Kalaf was the focus of Summit’s offensive attack, one its wide running game complemented well. That included a strong drive early in the second quarter during which running back Jackson Veeneman broke loose for a 23-yard gain and sophomore receiver Aidan Collins jetted a sweep for 16 yards. Later in the drive, Kalaf took a read-option run 21 yards to the Eagle Valley 8. But the Devils held after a Summit false start, Lee leading the Devil swarm halting Veeneman on fourth-and-goal from the 4.
Kalaf also led a Summit drive later in the first half all the way down to the Eagle Valley 14 before an interception halted the progress. The Tigers defense then rose up for a red-zone stop of their own to keep the game 12-0 heading into half.
Even though the Tigers didn’t score until the fourth quarter, after the game Eagle Valley head coach Gabe Brown knew the fight Kalaf brought in leading Summit’ offense all night.
“No. 10, hats off to that guy,” Brown said of Kalaf. “He’s an amazing athlete. He’s a hard guy to defend, so we anchored down and were disciplined. They followed the orders out there tonight, and we rallied to the ball really well.”
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
Summit maintained hope late in the game after a 16-play drive in the fourth quarter featured a pair of fourth-down conversions. Kalaf then found the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 5, keeping the ball after play action in the backfield.
The Tigers had one last chance with about two minutes to go to take the lead, down 12-7. Kalaf was corralled, forcing a final turnover on downs.
“We had our chances late in the game to put a drive together, and we just weren’t able to do it,” Wagner said. “But we did some really great things offensively and defensively. Our perimeter run game was spectacular. And the gameplan going in was a lot of Cam running the ball and using his legs, and he played well all night long. He was a beast. And our perimeter block game from Alexi Nevarez and Kobe Cortright was outstanding, it sprung us some big runs. Dan Gonzalez had some great key catches as well.”
Summit will return to the field on Friday night with a 7 p.m. game at Steamboat Springs before coming back home for a 6:30 p.m. Senior Night contest on Nov. 1 versus Glenwood Springs.
– Nate Peterson of the Vail Daily contributed reporting
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