Summit football battles back from 14-0 deficit to roar past Steamboat 35-21
As the Summit High School football team emphatically gathered at their typical endzone spot following their win versus Steamboat Springs on Friday night, John Shirkey and his coaching staff reminded his players of something important.
The message was namely for his captains and senior leaders. He recounted how, earlier this season, he asked the Tiger captains when they’d come back from adversity. In which game did they battle back all the way for a win?
“And we really couldn’t come up with one,” Summit senior captain quarterback Brendan Collins said of the captains’ then-response.
That all would change on a cold evening at Tiger Stadium in Breckenridge on Friday night. Without one of those senior captains, star wide receiver and wingback Max Duxbury, Summit roared back from an early 14-0 deficit en route to their most thorough team-football performance of the season.
“Everyone trusted the gameplan — trusted everything,” Collins said of the moment Friday night when the Tigers found themselves down 14-0 to the Sailors with 44 seconds left in the first quarter. “We just had to execute. We believed in ourselves and believed in the guys next to us, and it was just about executing.”
No football team wants to routinely begin games with early deficits. But considering Collins steers the ship to a Summit offensive attack that is run-heavy out of its double-wingback base, Shirkey has made it clear throughout the season that the Tigers’ propensity to get down early is particularly detrimental for his squad. They’ve made it a habit this season.
Friday night was different, though. Collins and the coaching staff had confidence Summit could impose its will at the line of scrimmage. And with the return of stud sophomore running back Noah Martens from a multi-game injury, the Tigers effectively had a wild card coming off of the bench to provide production where Duxbury couldn’t.
“With Noah we really didn’t know what we were going to get,” Shirkey said. “He finally got cleared on Tuesday, so he practiced a little bit. And he’s a good football player. We knew he was going to help us.”
The Tigers rode a blitz-happy defensive gameplan and a multi-headed rushing attack to methodically complete the comeback. It was one that hinged on what might have been Summit’s best offensive drive of the year to this point, which came at the perfect time at the end of the first half to send Summit into the intermission with plenty of momentum.
Summit converted a massive fourth down on that crucial drive, including a clutch 21-yard run off-tackle by Martens out of a timeout to keep it going. Martens’ fellow stud sophomore back Cam Kalaf reeled off a couple of big runs after that to set up a score by yet another sophomore running back, Jackson Veeneman, on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
Summit pounced to start the second half, riding that offensive line to a score at the 8:34 mark via an 8-yard Kalaf touchdown run to knot the game up at 14-14. Despite all of the energy in Tiger Stadium going toward the Tigers, Steamboat responded with a fade-route touchdown to reclaim the lead at 21-14 with 5:16 left in the third quarter.
Steamboat’s success would come to a sudden stop there, though. The Tigers had sniffed out how to bottle up the Sailor’s rushing success up the gut by reorganizing where their secondary set up pre-snap. The exclamation point on Summit’s defensive strategy was a precise play from senior captain “dog” linebacker Angel Arredondo off of the edge.
Arredondo made a habit all game of timing up his stunts perfectly, forcing fumbles as the Tigers ate up the Sailors’ offensive front in the second half.
It was quite the turnaround for Arredondo, as he appeared to injure his shoulder severely on a first half special teams play, describing it in the moment as “numb” to Shirkey.
But Arrendondo returned to wreak havoc off the edge to lead Summit’s second-half sack party. The nail in the coffin for the Sailors came in the fourth quarter when Tiger senior noseguard Jason Murray shed blocks on consecutive third- and fourth-down plays to put the game away.
“He brings energy, we feed off of him,” Shirkey said of Murray. “You probably hear him barking out there. He loves flying around, he loves playing football.”
With four minutes left in the third quarter, Kalaf continued his standout day by breaking what would have been a big-play rushing touchdown to tie the game at 21, but he re-aggravated a hip injury toward the end of the run that forced him out of the game. After a 9-yard Martens run pushed it to Steamboat’s 1-yard line, Collins punched it in from one yard out to tie the game.
Then, with 10:41 left in game, Summit finally took its first lead on a methodical drive during which they leaned on Martens churning up ground yards, capping it with a 3-yard score up the gut.
The Tigers then put the game away for good with 7:20 left in the contest when Martens punched it in from two yards out. That score capped a 43-yard, short-field drive set up by another perfectly-timed stunt from Arredondo that forced a quarterback fumble on a drop-back pass.
In the end, in his typical leadership fashion, Collins deferred credit to his offensive line, defensive line and linebackers.
“It was really the D-Line and dogs (linebackers) doing what they were asked of,” the quarterback said. “The dogs were asked to get after the quarterback, and that’s exactly what they did. And then those plays got us momentum on offense. They really couldn’t stop our O-Line.”
With the win, Summit improved its record to 3-5 and 2-1 in 3A Western Slope league play while Steamboat fell to 2-6 and 0-3 in league play. The Tigers return to action Friday night at Glenwood Springs before returning home for Senior Night at at 7 p.m. on Nov. 2, versus Palisade.
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