Summit football team ends season with 1st winning record in 10 years

Tigers had a 7-3 overall record and a 4-1 league record

Summit High School head coach James Wagner speaks to his players after the Tigers' 56-0 shutout over the Skyview Wolverines on Sept. 3.
John Hanson/For the Summit Daily News

After the Friday night, Nov. 5, game against the Steamboat Springs Sailors, the Summit High School Tigers football team had an outside shot at making the 3A state football playoffs for the first time in 15 years.

According to head coach James Wagner, the Summit team was one-thousandth of a point out of the 16th place seed, which is the last place allowed into the 3A state playoff bracket.

The state playoff bracket is determined by four sources of data, including rating percentage index, Colorado High School Activities Association Now coaches poll, Maxpreps rankings and Packard rankings. The Summit Tigers anxiously waited during the weekend to see whether the state association would announce that the team’s season was going to be extended into the playoffs.

Instead, the CHSAA football playoff committee decided Sunday, Nov. 7, that Thomas Jefferson High School would get the final seed, ending the Tigers season.

“It was heartbreaking,” Wagner said. “It is a sad thing to realize that you just fell short. These kids worked their butts off to put themselves in the position that they are at but just fell short.”

Wagner said it was a weird way to end the season because, for the 11 seniors on the team, there was a chance they would get another opportunity to play together. Instead, once they found out they’d missed the playoffs, they had already played their last game for the Tigers.

Wagner held a team meeting Monday, Nov. 8, to talk about the season and not making the playoffs. There was disappointment in the majority of the players’ eyes, but Wagner wanted to stress that nothing could take away from what the team had accomplished.

In Wagner’s third season as head coach of the Tigers, he successfully led the team to a 7-3 overall record and a 4-1 league record. Coach Wagner significantly improved upon his first two seasons in which he recorded records of 3-7 in 2019-20 and 1-4 in the modified 2020-21 season.

This season marks the first time the Tigers have had a winning record since the 2011-12 football season, in which the Tigers were 6-4 overall and 4-2 in league play under coach Dylan Hollingsworth.

The Tigers also closed out their season with three straight wins against league opponents to put themselves in playoff contention. In league play, the Tigers lost only to Palisade in a close game Oct. 15.

“Change takes time; there is no doubt about it,” Wagner said. “I understood that coming in and that we needed to build it from the ground up. For me, it is all about the relationships I have with these kids and treating them not only as football players but human beings.”

Wagner said that from the moment he came in as the head coach in 2019, he made an effort to invest in his players as individuals first. He said that goes a long way in them buying into what he tells them to do in the heat of the game because his players know that he and his coaching staff care about them on and off the field.

“I give my best for them, and all I ask is that they do the same for me,” Wagner said.

Senior star Aidan Collins agreed.

“My freshman year, the football team wasn’t that much. No one was that dedicated. But the second Wagner came in, he changed the program,” Collins said. “He had us all together in the offseason, bonding in the weight room and out of it. Culture change started with him, and we followed his steps as a brotherhood.”

Jackson Segal, left, and KJ Slaugh wrap up a runner during the Tigers' homecoming win against the Middle Park Panthers on Sept. 24 at Tiger Stadium in Breckenridge.
John Hanson/For the Summit Daily News

This buy-in factor came to fruition this past season as many of the freshmen and sophomore players who were on the team when Wagner first took the reigns in 2019 lit up the Tigers’ stats week after week throughout the season as juniors and seniors.

On the defensive side of the ball, senior linebacker Jackson Segal and free safety and wide receiver Collins led the team in tackles with 52 and 76, respectively.

Collins also contributed to the Tigers defense by recording four interceptions with junior Zach Elam picking off three.

The juniors and seniors also shined on the offensive side of the ball.

Junior quarterback Jack Schierholz threw for nearly 2,000 yards and rushed for another 431 yards. He had 23 passing touchdowns with six rushing touchdowns.

Collins and Phillip Berezinski were favorite targets of Schierholz, as Collins had 924 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Berezinski had 587 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

On the ground, the Tigers liked to rely on the senior duo in Collins and Alex Sanchez. Collins rushed for 579 yards and had eight touchdowns. Sanchez had 567 yards for seven touchdowns.

Now that the season has ended, Coach Wagner hopes the Tigers football team will stay on a path toward success leading to a playoff berth.

“Success breeds success,” Wagner said. “You want to continue to feel that feeling of winning. I believe in the team that we have and the culture we are developing. We understand as a team what it takes to get to the point where we are at, and we don’t want to stop (after this season).”

The Tigers will graduate 11 seniors who were instrumental in this year’s 7-3 season. Following in their footsteps is a group of junior varsity players who finished the season 8-2 and is eager to surpass the standard that has now been set for the Tigers football program.

Aidan Collins, a senior on the Summit High School football team, walks the sideline before scoring a touchdown during a game at Steamboat Springs on Friday, Nov. 5.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

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