Explosive, balanced offense leads Summit High football to season-opening win over Salida

Seniors Zayden Gerry (left), Alberto Espinoza and Daniel Gonzalez (right) lead the Summit High School varsity football team onto the field at Tiger Stadium ahead of their season-opening win versus Salida on Friday evening in Breckenridge.
Antonio Olivero /

BRECKENRIDGE — Riding an explosive offensive attack in its first game under new head coach James Wagner, the Summit High School varsity football team defeated Salida, 50-28, on Friday evening at Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers (1-0) gained momentum early on a 68-yard touchdown pass from junior captain quarterback Cam Kalaf to junior vice captain wide receiver Kobe Cortright. Kalaf and Wagner said the Tigers entered the matchup confident they’d be able to take advantage of one-on-one matchups against Salida’s press-man coverage on the perimeter. Just moments into the game, the dual-threat quarterback Kalaf knew he had the situation he wanted to hit Cortright on a fade route to seize control of the game 6-0 early.

“We’ve lost to Salida the past three years, so we need to come out strong,” said Kalaf, who played exclusively on offense Friday. “A strong season, strong energy — it’s a new season, a new energy, a new team, a new head coach, so come out and smack ’em in the mouth. And that’s what we did.”

The Spartans responded with a massive play of their own, an 80-yard pass play that, with a two-point conversion, gave Salida its only lead of the game with 7:34 left in the first quarter.

The Tigers offense punched right back. Four minutes later, Kalaf hit senior captain tight end Daniel Gonzalez in the end zone on a sprint right pass play to retake the lead. Gonzalez then made an acrobatic catch in the end zone on the ensuing two-point conversion, tipping the ball to himself on the rub play with one hand to give the Tigers a 14-8 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

“I feel like in the scrimmage I underperformed,” Gonzalez said. “And I knew I had to work on that play, work on these out routes — just forgot about everything. So I cleared my mind and caught the ball in the end zone.”

The Tigers strengthened their grip on the game thanks to an electric play by arguably the team’s most intense player, sophomore Jackson Segal, with 2:57 left in the first quarter. Segal recovered a fumble just outside of the Spartans red zone that eventually set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge for sophomore back Alex Sanchez. The score gave Summit a 22-8 lead.

The massive defensive play by Segal was validation for the new head coach Wagner that his kids are bought into his system and doing their jobs, no matter the coaching staff’s request. Just days earlier, Wagner had to shuffle around some players, including Segal, due to injuries. With junior defensive end Jack Renner moved to safety for the game, Segal slid from inside linebacker to defensive end and flashed numerous times Friday night againt Salida’s triple-option veer offense.

“He just has a nose for the football and wants to hunt it down,” Wagner said. “That’s the way I want my defense to be — excited and have that energy.”

Offensively, the Tigers focused on getting the ball to Gonzalez and Cortright through the air, though Summit executed a balanced attack. That included a run game where Kalaf capped the first half with a pair of rushing touchdowns late in the second quarter to give the Tigers a 36-14 lead at the break. One of those plays was an exclamation point on a resounding first half for the Tigers offense, as Kalaf showcased his dual-threat capabilities by scrambling through the Spartans defense on an 18-yard touchdown run.

LIVE: It’s officially football season at Summit High!???The Tigers are ready to battle Salida at Tiger Stadium in Breckenridge. It’s not too late to get out here!Check Saturday for full coverage of Friday’s season-opener.

Posted by Summit Daily News on Friday, August 30, 2019

“He’s just a special kid, special talent,” Wagner said. “Once that kid gets into space, watch out. He just knows how to find and get yardage.”

After Salida drew within 36-22 at the 8:17 mark of the third quarter, the Cam-to-Kobe connection again put the game out of reach mere seconds later. Kalaf connected with Cortright on a 51-yard touchdown pass. A Sanchez two-point conversion made it 44-22 with 8:03 left in the third quarter.

Summit High varsity football coach James Wagner and tight end/defensive end Daniel Gonzalez celebrate a big play during Friday evening’s opening game of the season at Tiger Stadium in Breckenridge.
Zoe Turner / Summit High School

From there, the Tigers kept control of the game, Segal forcing another fumble late in the third quarter, as junior Jackson Veeneman churned up yardage on the ground late. Veeneman’s 1-yard touchdown plunge with 7:12 left in the game propelled the Tigers to 50 points in the program’s strongest opening game in years.

“I’m just really excited about how my kids played,” Wagner said. “We talked a lot about … playing with passion and fire but not being so high that you’re playing out of your scheme. We talked about being even keeled and just being able to execute our plays. We did a lot of great things well. Had a lot of kids who just stepped up. We played team football. We had 11 hats to the ball on defense, we executed well on offense, and they just allowed themselves to be themselves and play.”

Summit High quarterback Cam Kalaf evades tacklers during the Tigers’ season-opening win versus Salida at Tiger Stadium in Breckenridge Friday evening.
Zoe Turner / Summit High School

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