Summit High School scrambles to prepare for fall football season |

Summit High School scrambles to prepare for fall football season

Summit High School freshman, Chris Guzman, right, faces off against a teammate during football practice Thursday, Oct. 1. After more than a month of back and forth on when the season would start, several school districts throughout Colorado have resumed high school football after the approval of Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado High School Activities Association.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography
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DILLON — A week out from the return of football, the Summit High School Athletic Department and football community are piecing together a plan to host the season-opening game.

The Tigers began practice Sept. 24 — just two days after the Colorado High School Activities Association shared the six-game schedule Summit will play this season. The squad transitioned to contact practices, without fully tackling to the ground, on Monday, Sept. 28. Summit head coach James Wagner said there is a limit on the number of minutes players are permitted to practice with contact, according to novel coronavirus protocol.

The practices are prepping Summit for an opponent not originally on its schedule or in its league. With some schools opting to stick with a spring season, Summit will now play in a patchwork league this year that Wagner said will be more difficult than a typical season. Adding Conifer, Evergreen and Fort Morgan to the schedule — with Conifer and Evergreen added to Summit’s league — includes three of the preseason top-12 3A teams in the state.

Despite the challenge Summit will face at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9, at Tiger Stadium, the kids are itching to play.

“We’re ready to move on and start getting into the season,” Wagner said.

Summit High School Director of Athletics Travis Avery said Friday’s game, classified as an outdoor event, will be capped at 175 people per public health guidelines. That might seem like a solid number in the age of COVID, but Avery said the teams will comprise the majority of that total with their game day rosters, nevermind numerous coaches on each sideline and other event personnel.

A week out, football team parents are unsure who will be able to attend home games. Avery and Katherine Collins, a contributing member for the football program’s parent and booster fundraising club, said there is a chance some senior parents will get the opportunity to attend. If they do make the cut, they’ll be subject to a health screening, including a temperature check, like anyone permitted to be on-site.

As for away games, Collins said it appears more likely that parents will be able to watch their sons on the road, as COVID public health rules and guidelines in other counties could permit parents to travel to games.

When parents travel to road games, Avery said it’s likely the school will lean on them to help with transportation. Avery said Summit School District has a 50% capacity for vehicles, so he hopes he can provide one yellow bus and one white bus for road games with parents potentially helping out.

“It’s easier to ask parents, ‘Can you drive? Who’s driving?’ when they can also can access the game,” Avery said. “It might feel a little bit like planes, trains and automobiles to get all 50-plus of the kids going there.”

With all the back and forth on whether there would be a fall season, Wagner said the team has lost some players, including a few who opted out due to COVID and a few who got jobs earlier in the summer when CHSAA initially announced football would be in the spring.

“It hurt our momentum,” Wagner said. “Some kids we were counting on being there are not, and that takes a toll on the team. …”

Collins said, in general, football parents are excited for the season, describing the past few months of uncertainty as emotional. Collins said parents who can’t attend Friday’s game are planning to watch the game remotely via a livestream. It’ll be a much different Friday night lights experience for parents like her, who are used to operating the concession stand at home games.

Collins said the booster club also won’t handle the bagged dinners for away games or family prepared meals for home games this season. Rather, they are opting for caterers who are familiar with the COVID rules to handle feeding the team.

Online and Tiger Card fundraising has helped the team despite the loss of fundraisers like game day concessions and the annual golf tournament, Collins said. And with COVID eliminating much of what can happen on football game days, Collins said expenses for the booster club are down, too. But the virus has meant the program has had to sacrifice some things, such as the special gear the team wears for events like Salute to Service and breast cancer awareness that won’t be happening this season. That said, the boosters are providing buff facial coverings as part of the team uniform.

However it manifests, it appears the Tigers will have a season, and Wagner is grateful for that.

“I think we are starting to find our groove again, especially the last two practices,” Wagner said. “But it’s definitely been a challenge.”

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