Summit football aims to be ‘electric’ in 3rd season under coach Wagner
Tigers expect teamwide improvement led by veteran receiver, talented new quarterback
Now in his third year at the helm, Summit High School varsity football coach James Wagner continues to craft the culture and quality of the Tigers program.
Upon entry into the Tigers locker room, visitors will notice two new placards on the walls adjacent to the door. One lists the team’s 10 goals for this season. The other reads, “EMAT.”
“‘Every man’s a Tiger,’” senior wide receiver and defensive back Aidan Collins said. “It represents that once you’re a Tiger, you always are. And you’re always family, and no matter where you are, we always have each other.”
Collins and the rest of the Tigers football tribe tap the sign each time they enter and exit the locker room. It’s a tradition Wagner brought from his playing days, tweaking the “Trojans” to “Tigers” as he works to continue to cultivate a family-like atmosphere within the program.
It’s just that — “Be a family” — that is the first goal listed. It’s the second goal that Wagner said is unique to this 2021 group: “Be electric.”
Wagner said Collins and the team opted for this rallying cry as the Tigers look to improve upon their 1-4 record from a 2020 season ravaged by COVID-19 restrictions.
With Collins and new junior quarterback Jack Schierholz leading the way, the “be electric” creed is a progression from the team’s focus on intensity in recent years. In a way, it exudes a confidence that the team can take the next step and light up both the scoreboard and community support. With players like Collins, Schierholz and senior center Graham Kalaf — vastly more knowledgeable and experienced in their third year under Wagner — the coach said the team is refining rather than installing.
“This year, some different things are at stake for our team,” Wagner said. “We’ve got a pretty good thing going in terms of team morale. The expectations are higher now on my end and the players’ end. We are setting out to do something different for our team and school.”
• Aug. 27 at Delta, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 3 vs. Skyview, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 10 vs. Aspen, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 18 at Kennedy, All City Stadium, Denver, 2 p.m.
• Sept. 24 vs. Middle Park, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 8 vs. Glenwood Springs, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 15 at Palisade, Stocker Stadium, Grand Junction, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 22 vs. Battle Mountain, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 29 at Eagle Valley, 7 p.m.
• Nov. 5 at Steamboat Springs, 7 p.m.
By the time the Tigers get to their season opener of a 10-game regular season Aug. 27, Summit will have had four weeks of training camp. That follows up a summer that consisted of strength and conditioning work as well as an installation camp where the coaches and players got a head start on offensive and defensive schemes.
The team this summer has also been able to bond off the field. During the first week of camp, Wagner had the players out together overnight in between practice sessions. Their reward was a team-bonding whitewater rafting experience as a group rather than another day in helmets.
When the Tigers play their first home game Friday, Sept. 3, Wagner and offensive coordinator Sean Mase will have a capable arm in Schierholz throwing to the crafty and athletic Collins. Schierholz said he is confident he will have time to throw downfield behind an offensive line that returns Kalaf and several veterans, including talented guys like Jackson Segal, who did not play in 2020. Wagner said he expects the offense to operate with freedom thanks to Schierholz’s ability to call audibles at the line of scrimmage. Collins said he and the Tigers’ receivers and skill players have used the summer to further gel with Schierholz to be on the same page each snap come the fall.
Before the season starts, Summit will scrimmage a proud, powerful mountain program in Evergreen on Aug. 21 at Tiger Stadium. When Wagner goes to review that film, he hopes to see competitiveness above all else.
“And being aggressive,” he said. “If we are aggressive, we can do some really good things. Showing a fight — that’s really what I look for any time we take the field. The result will speak for itself. And, on offense, the execution of the little things — gelling as a team, being aggressive and playing together.”
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