Summit High School football amped to finally open season at home versus Conifer |

Summit High School football amped to finally open season at home versus Conifer

Summit High School varsity football coach James Wagner instructs a player on his technique during a drill Oct. 1.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

FRISCO — Months ago, in the depths of the novel coronavirus pandemic and shutdown, the closest Cam and Graham Kalaf got to playing football was practicing snapping, running routes and going over offensive schemes in their family’s backyard. At times, it seemed like a pipe dream that the brothers would be able to play another game as Summit High School Tigers together.

But on Friday, they’ll get their wish.

“I’m proud of them for sticking out just the ups and downs of this whole entire season of life of COVID,” Summit head coach James Wagner said. “We’ve got a couple of key players quarantined who won’t be able to play this game, so the resiliency to show up and continue to fight through adversity — it feels like almost every day the kids have one of their teammates out because someone at school or workplace (came into contact with someone who tested positive). But while they stay at home, we have to rise to the occasion.”

After a tumultuous offseason of postponements, cancellations and rescheduling due to COVID-19, the Summit High School varsity football team will return under the lights at Climax Molybdenum Field at Tiger Stadium at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9. The season-opening opponent will be Conifer, a proud and proven program that reeled off 11 consecutive wins last season before a sole loss in the state playoff semifinals. Of those 11 wins, one was a 56-19 victory at Summit.

Despite the clear challenge the Tigers will face when the Lobos come to town Friday night, the Summit students who stuck with the program felt like kids on Christmas Eve on Thursday afternoon.

“The atmosphere is going to be a little different,” quarterback Cam Kalaf said. “It won’t be as loud and intense because the student section won’t be there. But we still have our guys bringing intensity and confidence. Our team is going to bring the atmosphere. Also having some senior parents in the stands is a big confidence booster, as well.”

Though Summit will be without a handful of contributing players due to COVID-19 protocols, the squad hopes to have a nucleus of returning and new players who will be able to compete with Conifer. It starts with senior Cam Kalaf, an athletic quarterback who Wagner said has the ability to break a big play at any moment. Wide receiver and defensive back Kobe Cortright, Cam Kalaf’s fellow senior captain, said the quarterback has added strength, speed, arm power and knowledge of the position through this atypical offseason.

Friday Night Lights live

Click here to watch the Summit Daily News’ Facebook Live broadcast of the game at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Kalaf will be surrounded on the offensive end by an attack he and Wagner hope will be well balanced this season. Out wide, Cortright, junior captain Aidan Collins as well as sophomores Tucker Broughton and Zach Elam have gone through a second offseason of installation and execution with Wagner and Kalaf. To complement that air attack, Wagner and Kalaf said the Tigers will lean on a pair of newcomers in seniors Zach Misch and Daniel Marony. After losing physical presences in Dan Gonzalez, Alex Sanchez and Al Espinosa from last year’s team, Marony’s rugby background provides the Tigers with a little bit of thunder out of the backfield. Misch’s speed provides the lightning. To boot, each player is a senior, bringing more mental and physical maturity than a younger newcomer.

“There’s something to be said about seniors on the field,” Wagner said. “It’s just the mentality they have, not playing timid or scared.”

Tigers football

Oct. 9: vs. Conifer, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 15: at Thornton, 6 p.m.
Oct. 23: vs. Palisade, 5 p.m.
Oct. 29: at Evergreen, 6 p.m.
Nov. 6: vs. Battle Mountain, 5 p.m.
Nov. 13: at Fort Morgan, 7 p.m.

On the defensive side, though Conifer has turned over much of its personnel from last year, Summit will have to contend with Lobos stud tailback Noah Wagner. Wagner said the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder runs with long strides and covers ground quickly, evidenced by his 1,600 rushing yards last season.

If Summit is to stick with Conifer into the fourth quarter, it’ll likely be because of the effort of its talented and experienced defensive backs in containing Noah Wagner and helping hardworking but young defensive lineman and linebackers in run support.

“When you have seniors on the defense and defensive backs that can see the field from a bird’s eye view, it brings all those guys together,” James Wagner said. “… They have to make sure we have 11 hats flying to the ball each and every play. It’s what we thrive on as a defense.”

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