Fort Morgan physicality overpowers Summit High football amid windy game on the Eastern Plains
FORT MORGAN — The Summit High School varsity football team experienced the same howling winds many Summit County residents did on Saturday — except they were attempting to move the football on the Eastern Plains rather than moving on a mountain ski hill.
The Tigers couldn’t get out of the shadow of their own end zone Saturday afternoon against Fort Morgan High School in Fort Morgan and the Mustangs defeated the Tigers 43-8.
After a month without a game — and with only a week of practices limited to 5-versus-5 full-contact for 15 minutes — Summit (1-2) was able to play a full 60-minute game against Fort Morgan (4-1) in Morgan County, which permitted the game due to local coronavirus regulations. The Tigers were only able to practice full-squad, full-contact football in Fort Morgan right before the game due to Summit County’s coronavirus regulations.
It became apparent early the full-contact nature of the game would only be amplified due to wind gusts upward of 70 mph, which nullified most of the downfield and perimeter passing attack. The Mustangs took it to the Tigers early after Fort Morgan wasn’t able to practice until Friday due to their own COVID-19 protocol.
“We lost the toss and they elected to defend their end zone — they wanted to have the wind in the first quarter,” said Tigers head coach James Wagner. “They took the wind in the first quarter and pinned us deep, and we couldn’t get out of there. On the kickoffs, with the wind, the ball would only go 10 yards in the air. It was that brutal of a wind. So it was just a tough game because it’s just so out of the normal.”
With the Tigers pinned deep in their own territory on their opening drive, Summit went three-and-out before a wind gust took the snap on the punt as Fort Morgan recovered. The Mustangs scored on the next play.
On the ensuing Summit offensive drive the Tigers stalled out and were forced to punt again. On fourth down the Tigers punt traveled just 10 yards in the gusty winds — from their own 20-yard to their own 30-yard line. The Mustangs soon scored again and ultimately exited the first quarter with a 21-0 lead that the Tigers wouldn’t come close to challenging against the stout Mustangs offensive and defensive lines.
As the Tigers tried to get senior quarterback Cam Kalaf established in the read option game and dynamic junior wide receiver Aidan Collins going on the edge, the loss of sophomore tackle Eli Krawczuk only hampered the Tigers further.
“There were consistent gusts of up to 60-to-70 mph winds — it was hard walking in one direction,” Wagner said. “Going into the game we wanted to throw the ball. But we had to resort back to our running game. Our strength has been being able to throw the ball around. We wanted to take advantage on the edge, but that didn’t fall into the cards for us this week. Us as coaches, we’ve got to get better. We have to better game plan going in for those type of weather situations.”
Summit’s only score came in the third quarter, on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Kalaf to Collins. Kalaf ran in on a two-point conversion to make it 28-8.
“It was a nice little read-pass option pass right over the middle of the field,” Wagner said. “Cam hit Aidan on a slant route, and he took it to the house from there. (Senior wide receiver) Kobe (Cortright) had a nice block down the field.”
Wagner said in the second half the Tigers defense held the Mustangs to a couple longer drives, limiting the big play.
But in the end the weather and the nature of the game fit much more into the Mustangs’ ground-and-pound scheme. Mustangs junior quarterback Briggs Wheatley, a top state baseball prospect, provided a dual-threat option through the air and on the ground when the Mustangs weren’t leaning on their triple option.
Summit is next slated to play at Frederick High School (1-5) on the Front Range, a historically good program that’s a little down this year, most recently losing to Eagle Valley 14-8 on Nov. 7.
“It should be a good contest,” Wagner said. It’ll probably be a closer matchup in terms of physicality wise, for us. It should be a pretty good ball game. We are looking forward to a fast turn around. I told my kids, ‘Obviously things got out of hand. Sometimes things happen. But we have a quick turnaround and be ready to roll.’”
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