Perimeter run game, havoc-hungry D leads Summit football to road win at Steamboat

Summit junior Cameron Kalaf recovers a Steamboat Springs fumble during a game Friday night at Gardner Field in Steamboat.
Shelby Reardon / Steamboat Pilot & Today

As Cam Kalaf galloped into the endzone within the final two minutes of Summit football’s 19-7 win at Steamboat Springs Friday night, his Tiger football buddy Dan Gonzalez ran up alongside of him.

Before the junior quarterback Kalaf even crossed the plane of the endzone, effectively giving the Tigers the win it sorely needed, he and the senior captain tight end Gonzalez high-fived in celebration.

It was that moment, when the dual-threat QB broke free and dodged eight Steamboat tacklers for a 46-yard touchdown scamper, when Summit (3-5, 2-1 3A Western Slope) could finally exhale. After a heartbreaker last week at Eagle Valley where the Tigers lost despite controlling much of the gameplay, Summit didn’t let this one slip out of their claws.

Rather, after trailing 7-6 at halftime, the Tigers offensive and defensive lines clamped down at the line of scrimmage while Summit’s perimeter rushing attack blossomed, led by the special dual-threat athlete, Kalaf.

“That moment,” Tigers first-year head coach James Wagner said of Kalaf’s touchdown run with 1:39 left in the game, “kind of capped it. We knew we had the game in our hands. It was just an exciting moment for the kids to know they are going to come away with the W and their hard work going to pay off. They just deserve all the credit in the world.”

After four consecutive losses dropped the Tigers to 1-4, Summit is 2-1 since 3A Western Slope League conference play has began, outscoring their opponents by a combined margin of 61-31 in those games. While the Tigers offense has worked to find its way in those ballgames, Summit’s defense has been the constant. After watching the film Saturday, Wagner was again ecstatic with the leadership of  senior captain linebacker Alberto Espinosa. Aside from a “double bubble” screen pass  trick play executed by Steamboat Springs (3-5, 1-2) quarterback Cade Gedeon with fewer than 90 seconds remaining in the first half, Summit’s defense was stout all night.

Still, Summit was in familiar territory at the half after that trick play score. Down 7-6, the Tigers had played better than the opposition, yet was still losing. Zeroing in on what was important, Wagner reminded his players that they’d used their one trick play and now their bag of smoke-and-mirrors plays was likely empty. With that, and with Summit receiving the second-half kickoff, it was time to return to their gameplan of infiltrating the Sailors’ backfield on defense and making magic happen off of their perimeter run game on offense.

“Going into it offensively,” Wagner said, “we were really looking to run the ball consistently all night and get Cam Kalaf the ball as much as we could. We rode him all night long. He was a playmaker from the very beginning of the game. He’s just something special to watch.”

The Tigers pounced early, imposing their will with Kalaf, Alex Sanchez, Aidan Collins and Jackson Veeneman churning for yards in the perimeter run game. It all set up a playaction touchdown pass to Gonzalez at the beginning of the second quarter, when Kalaf faked a handoff off on jet motion before tossing it 14 yards to Gonzalez for a 6-0 lead.

In the second half, while Summit’s D continued to create havoc against Steamboat’s veer game, the Tigers offense found the go-ahead score on their opening drive of the half.  Rather than fake the jet sweep, Kalaf handed it off to the sophomore Collins, who did a great job of setting up his blocks, dipping in and out of the holes that opened up, for a 22-yard score and a 12-7 lead.

With Senior Night in Tiger Stadium on deck on Friday night against another 3-5 team, Glenwood Springs, at 7 p.m., Wagner is confident his team realizes the execution necessary to compete with anyone in 3A Western Slope action.

“When we play disciplined,” the coach said, “I like our chances. I like our guys a lot.”

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