Watch: Summit High School football rides thrilling plays to homecoming win on ‘blackout’ night

Tigers defense shuts out Middle Park offense after blackout delay

Summit High School junior tight end Zach Elam catches a Hail Mary pass for a touchdown as the clock runs out on the first half of the Tigers' homecoming win against the Middle Park Panthers on Friday, Sept. 24, at Tiger Stadium in Breckenridge.
John Hanson/For the Summit Daily News

With seconds left in the first quarter of the Summit High School football team’s homecoming game against Middle Park on Friday, Sept. 24, the lights went out in Farmers Korner.

“I said, ‘You guys wanted a blackout, right?’ And they got it,” Tigers head coach James Wagner said.

With his Tigers wearing black tops and bottoms, and with the students in the Tiger Stadium bleachers clad in all black as well, the Tigers expected a blackout Friday night — just not in that fashion.

As they held a 7-0 lead when the Friday night lights went out, Summit didn’t let the 45-minute delay take them off course in their quest to win a homecoming game for the first time in years.

Wagner told his boys to treat the blackout delay as if it were a lightning delay, and to remain focused on the Middle Park Panthers. Because, once the halogen lights turned back on high above Tiger Stadium, they’d have to dig their fingers into the field turf’s rubber pellets and fire off the snap to protect a one possession lead.

It was quite the sudden, surprising test on a raucous homecoming night — with their friends going crazy in the bleachers. Junior tackle Eli Krawczuk thought back to Super Bowl XLVII when the lights went out in the Superdome in New Orleans during the Baltimore Ravens win over the San Francisco 49ers.

Krawczuk wanted the Tigers to return to the field more like the Ravens and less like the Niners.

“It was really good to test our ability to play through something like that,” Krawczuk said. “It was awesome for us to experience. But, at the same time, it can throw a team off. I think we did a really good job of coming back out and staying focused.”

One might forgive the fans in attendance for thinking it was the first touchdown of the game — Aidan Collins’ 70-plus-yard catch and run — that blew a fuse at Tiger Stadium. All season long Summit has preached the senior star’s mantra to “be electric.” The spark play gave Summit an early 7-0 lead over the Panthers moments before everything turned dark.

Once play resumed, the Tigers maintained their electricity led by Krawczuk and a ferocious Summit defense. The Tigers contained and corralled dynamic Middle Park quarterback Davis Emery and earned the ball back for Summit’s offense.

On that side of the ball, Summit junior quarterback Jack Schierholz bounced back from a tough outing in Saturday’s, Sept. 18, loss to John F. Kennedy to play much of his best football of the season en route to a 41-7 win. It was Schierholz who orchestrated the Tigers’ near-perfect offense in that first half, including churning for yard after yard on the ground, punctuated by a scramble run that pushed the lead to 14-0.

UPDATE, 7:57: Game paused due to blackout, will be back in approximately 9 minutes… LIVE: Homecoming football for Summit Tigers vs. Middle Park! Join sports editor Antonio Olivero for the live broadcast…

Posted by Summit Daily News on Friday, September 24, 2021

“He’s really starting to develop his mindset of seeing a defense and being able to read it,” Wagner said. “And we tell him, ‘You got good speed. You run a 4.8-second 40-yard dash. Use your thickness as a linebacker and use your speed and take it and go.’ And his moxie, man — he’s a moxie kid. He makes plays.”

The plays the Tigers made only grew in magnitude from there. Late in the second quarter, offensive coordinator Sean Mase’s offense converted a razzle-dazzle play they installed just the day before and practiced only four times. But the hook-and-ladder was executed to perfection as Schierholz found tight end Zach Elam for a deep pass before Elam tossed a lateral to a streaking Collins. The senior, 100-meter runner turned on the afterburners for his second touchdown of the half of more than 70 yards on the thrilling trick play that sent the crowd into the frenzy.

Mase and the Tigers offense weren’t done. As the horn sounded to end the first half, the Tigers streaked three receivers downfield out of a bunch formation before Elam came down with a scintillating Hail Mary catch for a 28-0 lead.

LIVE: Homecoming football for Summit Tigers vs. Middle Park! Join sports editor Antonio Olivero for the live broadcast…

Posted by Summit Daily News on Friday, September 24, 2021

“I hear Aidan yelling at me,” Elam said. “He’s like, ‘Get this, Zach! Get this, Zach!’ And I had to go get it. Jack threw a perfect ball.”

Led by the pillaging Krawczuk, Summit’s defense held strong for their shutout in the second half as Middle Park’s only points came on an interception return off Schierholz. But the quarterback bounced back to lead a drive capped by a rushing touchdown by Tiger senior back Alex Sanchez. Summit’s other touchdown was another electric play, again from Elam.

As Krawczuk and the Tigers defenders enveloped Emery, the Panther quarterback floated a pass into Elam’s waiting arms as the linebacker returned his second pick six of the season.

LIVE: Homecoming football for Summit Tigers vs. Middle Park! Join sports editor Antonio Olivero for the second half live broadcast, Tigers lead 28-0…

Posted by Summit Daily News on Friday, September 24, 2021

It was one of several redemption-like plays on the day for Summit. The exclamation point was an interception by junior defensive back Charlie Chabot, the same player who missed on a similar play last week that resulted in a back-breaking Kennedy touchdown.

To Wagner, that’s football, and that’s life — licking your wounds and making the play the next time you’re challenged in the same format. That ability to persevere, the coach said, will serve his side well after a bye week when they host Glenwood Springs at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9, at Tiger Stadium to open Western Slope League play.

“The play he made, it just speaks volumes for what they are doing in practice,” Wagner said. “We are resilient.”

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