Summit football wraps 2020 season with emotional virtual awards night |

Summit football wraps 2020 season with emotional virtual awards night

Summit High School senior quarterback Cam Kalaf eludes tacklers during the team’s 20-6 loss at Thompson Valley on Saturday, Nov. 21.
Photo from Kerri Elam

In his speech at Monday night’s Summit High School football virtual awards ceremony, Tigers head coach James Wagner partially defined success as “a peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

“There won’t be many other things in this life that test your emotions as much as this season did,” Wagner said to those watching on more than 90 Zoom accounts, including some families huddled together on their living room couch. “The roller coaster of emotions and adversity that (Tiger players) embraced and took on is preparing them for much more to come when they face it.”

How easy it would have been, Wagner said to the huddled families, “to give in and give up.” How easy it would have been “for players to say, ’it’s not worth showing up anymore.’” But Wagner conveyed to the Tigers program that, to him, the mentality of the young Tigers men at Summit High School is changing. Summit’s football players “will fight to give you everything they have.” And that’s through the challenges of quarantines, social distancing, bus breakdowns and practicing in freezing temperatures, he said.

“I simply believe that adversity doesn’t build character; it reveals it,” Wagner said during his presentation. “Through all of these challenges and trying times, not once did our team give in. We continued to show up and fight — together — through thick and thin.”

A passionate Wagner went 15 minutes over his two-hour time limit Monday while hosting the program’s annual season-end festivities after a one-win, five-loss season.

Rather than hundreds of people convening at The Stinky Boot Saloon and Restaurant in Breckenridge like last year, team moms like Katherine Collins, Carole Young, Annika Crowe and others put together gift bags for players to enjoy with their families at home while Wagner and his staff summed up the season and named award winners.

While Tigers student-athletes opened up their gift bags — complete with Blue Moon Bakery Tigers football cupcakes and Dillon Dam Brewery root beers — players convened with the 2020 football family one final time. They received framed photos and watched a slideshow montage of a season Wagner and Collins said will never be forgotten.

Wagner said one of the things he was most proud of was sharing that Summit bumped up to 12 All-State academic student-athletes compared to three last season despite the challenges of COVID-19 remote learning.

“With it all being online, there’s not too many people holding them accountable,” Wagner said. “They have to hold themselves accountable, so it was outstanding for our program to excel academically.”

Summit senior captain wide receiver and defensive back Kobe Cortright won the program’s Tiger Award, which is given out annually to the student-athlete who represents the program from an on-field, academic and leadership standpoint. Wagner commended Cortright for his GPA over 4.0, saying he was committed in every last thing he did.

Cortright said football helped him balance his life, saying the sport helps cultivate “an easy way to be well rounded.” As for Monday night, he said he’ll remember how emotionally passionate Wagner was in his final address to the 2020 squad.

“And how passionate you should be about something you care about,” Cortright said.

Senior captain quarterback and defensive back Cam Kalaf won the team’s MVP award. Wagner said Kalaf was deserving because he’s the emotional heartbeat of the team and excelled as a passer, rusher and punter. Kalaf said he appreciated the honor because it was voted on by his teammates.

“I’m glad the team saw me as that person,” Kalaf said.

Wagner said all-state candidate junior captain wide receiver Aidan Collins was named offensive player of the year after an offseason in which he showed up to 6 a.m. workouts on mornings after he practiced with the wrestling team. Wagner felt Collins was able to lead 3A statewide in receiving yards and touchdowns this year through a nagging Achilles injury due to his steely, humble work ethic.

At the beginning of the year, Wagner said he wouldn’t have expected sophomore offensive and defensive lineman Eli Krawczuk to be named defensive player of the year. But the strong side defensive end did thanks to his value as the one guy opposing offenses didn’t want to run into, despite a high ankle sprain.

The program’s Buck Finley Award for commitment and perseverance went to senior running back and linebacker Brennan Counsell, who returned and stuck with the team a year after he was forced out due to a head injury suffered in a fall in the school bathroom due to low blood sugar.

“He’s a kid that was always around and never complained what he was asked to do,” Wagner said.

And this year, Wagner dished out a new honor: the Trench Award. The inaugural recipient was Graham Kalaf. The junior brother of the MVP, Graham Kalaf was the core of both lines of scrimmage for the Tigers after improving his technique as a wrestler last year.

After a tumultuous seven months for the football program, Katherine Collins said the ceremony was a heartwarming final example of the team’s camaraderie.

“Even in these tough times, (Wagner) made the season still a great success,” she said.

2020 Summit Tigers football awards and honors

Most valuable player: Cam Kalaf

Offensive player of the year: Aidan Collins

Defensive player of the year: Eli Krawczuk

Tiger Award: Kobe Cortright

Buck Finley Award: Brennan Counsell

Trench Award: Graham Kalaf

Rookie of the year: Jack Schierholz

Most improved player: Giancarlo Martinez

Scout team player of the year: Gavin Vogt

All-conference first team: Cam Kalaf, Aidan Collins and Graham Kalaf

All-conference second team: Eli Krawczuk, Jack Schierholz, Kobe Cortright

All-conference honorable mention: Daniel Marony

Academic all-state (3.6 GPA or higher): Aidan Collins, Jac Crowe, Kobe Cortright, Daniel Marony, Luke Mathis and Zach Misch

Academic all-state honorable mention (3.3-3.59 GPA): Noe Blanco, Jake Boyle, Graham Kalaf, Brennan Counsell, Esteban Fernandez and Cameron Kalaf

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