Summit football resumes practice but cannot host another home game
Winter high school sports seasons remain uncertain
DILLON — The Summit High School varsity football team (1-1) returned to the field this week after a multiweek postponement of practice and cancellation of three games related to coronavirus.
The Tigers are scheduled to play Saturday at Fort Morgan and Nov. 19 at Central High School in Grand Junction, and Summit High School Director of Athletics Travis Avery hopes to schedule a final game over Thanksgiving weekend to complete a five-game season.
Tigers head coach James Wagner said most Tigers players returned to full-pad practice Monday after athletes and coaches quarantined at their homes for two weeks and then stayed home another week due to a schoolwide quarantine. With the school’s return to in-person instruction this week, Avery said the football team has been permitted to practice again.
“We are all just grateful and thankful we can be out there and be a team again,” Wagner said. “Practices have been great so far. It doesn’t feel like the kids missed too much of a beat. They are dialed in, wanting to learn, play. It’s really the only source of an outlet they get in their day that’s kind of away from the rest of world.”
During the quarantine, Wagner said he and other Tigers coaches sent players strength and conditioning workouts and didn’t share anything specific to football. He said coaches focused on watching film to prepare for the rest of the season while wanting players to focus on academics. The coaches did meet via video conference with the full team daily to check in and see how they were doing.
And now that the team has returned to practice, things have changed.
Since Summit County dropped back to safer-at-home level orange, practices can permit only 15 minutes of full-contact drills. It was 30 minutes the last time the Tigers practiced. During that full contact, football players can practice in maximum groups of 10. As a result, Wagner is having the team practice in 5-versus-5 settings simulating half of the action on a football field.
The county’s recent drop down to level orange also means Summit won’t be able to host another home football game this season because of the cap of 75 people at an event.
Wagner said, to his knowledge, there have been no players or members of the football program who have become badly sick due to the novel coronavirus. He and his players also realize more postponements and cancellations could come at any moment.
“We know it’s a risk,” Wagner said. “We know that, and we can at any moment be shut down again. Right now, nobody’s sick. But could that change today? Yeah. It could change tomorrow or the next day. We’ve got, I’d say, about 85% to 90% everyone is back. There are a couple that are just being cautious and their families have decided to opt out. And we support that because we understand the situation. Some of the guys are not back, but they are still part of this team, and we miss having them out there.”
Wagner said the team’s core players — such as junior quarterback Cam Kalaf, junior wide receiver Aidan Collins and senior wide receiver Kobe Cortright — are all back at practice. He said the team will miss a top lineman who has not returned.
Summit’s opponent Saturday in Fort Morgan won’t have much of an advantage aside from playing on its home field. The Mustangs (3-1) will be able to practice only one day this week due to their own quarantine.
Once in Fort Morgan, Wagner said the Tigers will have an added hour of pregame practice where they will be able to dial in any details they weren’t able to this week due to Summit County’s COVID-19 limitations.
Avery said a silver lining in the road games to end the season is that parents might be able to travel and watch their children play, depending on the restrictions in the counties where the games are held.
Summit High School winter sports — such as basketball, wrestling and hockey — are scheduled to begin in January.
Avery said the current Summit County COVID-19 restrictions would prevent things like basketball and wrestling practices to take place indoors, but high schools around the state are waiting to see if a variance request will enable athletes to play. Avery said athletic directors are hoping the Colorado High School Activities Association — the governing body for high school sports in Colorado — will get a variance approved by Gov. Jared Polis’ office.
Avery said CHSAA might learn more by Dec. 1. Until then, all Summit High athletics activities outside of football, such as offseason or preseason practices, cannot be held.
“I’m definitely hopeful, at the least, being able to kind of — similar to what the deal is with football — maybe don’t have spectators but come up with some broadcast viewing options,” Avery said. “The kids practice and host games, but there’s no one else in the gyms. But we are also realistic about the challenging COVID environment. We’ll see.”
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