SHS football steps into future
FARMER’S KORNER – New uniforms, new league, new coach: The Summit High School football team steps into the future Friday.
For the first time in 12 years, someone other than Tom Dickey will lead the Tigers into battle when the season opens at 7 p.m. at Tiger Field against Skyview.
But Rob Royer is more established than most first-year coaches. He oversaw a year-round weightlifting program, spent a season as assistant track coach and led preseason football camps and practices this spring and summer. It’s all given Royer a deeper relationship with his charges than would be expected from a rookie coach.
“There’s been a lot more commitment all year ’round,” said senior linebacker John Rutter. “We’ve been around him long enough, it doesn’t feel like his first year.”
Royer has tried to emphasize the fresh-start aspect of this season, hoping to distance the team from the three-win campaigns of the past two years. To that end, he hired a new defensive coordinator, Curtis Davis, and two other new assistants, Ben Lustig and John Padjen. Royer also successfully petitioned for new uniforms and a new helmet logo.
New also is quarterback Preston Johnson, who takes over for the departed Joey Van Ness. With Johnson, a junior, the Tigers will run an option offense featuring running backs Jack St. John and Aaron Bork. Johnson, last year’s JV quarterback and varsity backup, will also get his share of carries.
“I love to run,” Johnson said. “I’m a lot better of a runner than a passer. Over the summer we’ve been throwing a lot. My arm hasn’t been the strongest, but it’s getting there.”
Throws will mostly come off run fakes and will go to an experienced core of receivers. Seniors Jeff Lunceford and Ryan Clift will be the wideouts, and Mike Allard will find the ball in his hands plenty from the tight end position. Junior John Wheeler also will be counted on to make plays.
All the skill positions have varsity experience. Their protectors, however, are a different story.
The offensive line starts two sophomores (Matt Haley and Mike Holloway), one junior (Tom Allard) and one senior (Justin Blincoe). The unit has had to come together quickly during the preseason, but Royer doesn’t think it will hold back the offense.
“Other than the offensive line, we are very experienced,” he said. “And the O-line has come a long way.”
The strength of the defense will be the linebackers: St. John, Rutter and Mike and Tom Allard. Despite the loss of last year’s leading tackler, Chris Montepare, to graduation, there should be no drop-off in run-stopping ability, Royer said.
“Our linebacking corps is better than it was last year, even with the loss of Monte. He was a fantastic tackler, but now instead of one, we’ve got four.”
Ben Child was impressive as a midseason replacement at nose guard last season, and he’ll anchor the defensive line from that position this year. Blincoe, Holloway and Tom Warnes round out the D-line. Clift and Wheeler will play the corners in an experienced secondary, and Bork and Lunceford will play safety. Cory Olson will also play some defensive back, and he’ll back up Johnson at QB.
With a 12-team, Class 3A league, which is newly formed this year, there are no nonconference games. All 10 contests count on the Tigers’ league record. The top five teams will make the playoffs. Englewood, Centaurus and Elizabeth were ranked in the top 10 in the Denver Post’s preseason 3A poll.
“Every game this year is a league game, so we can’t afford to lose any of them,” Mike Allard said. “We’ve been working all summer, so we’re expecting to do well against a lot of teams.”
Three coaches – Scott Fletcher, Burt Holloway and Rod Oliver – come back from Dickey’s staff, on which Royer was a first-year defensive coordinator last year. Also, Hearthstone Catering of Breckenridge will be setting up a tailgate tent at 5:30 p.m. on home games with food and drink. The Hearthstone will also run the concession stand this year, Royer said.
Jason Starr can be reached at (970) 668-3998 Ext. 231 or at email@example.com.
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