Summit not alone in playing independent football schedule
FARMER’S KORNER – At the end of Friday night’s 30-6 loss to the visiting Jefferson Saints, several Summit High School football players lingered on the field long after the stadium emptied.
Among those athletes was Mike Holloway, a junior who scored a miraculous touchdown to send the Tigers into the locker room at halftime down only two points.
As Holloway watched the Tigers defense break down in the second half for the sixth consecutive game, however, it simply tore into him. He stood there, in the middle of the field, and fought back tears.
“We were building the momentum,” he said. “But we’ve got to somehow build ourselves up.”
The fact was, the future of the Tigers’ football program looked uncertain.
Three days later, coaches, players and athletic director Gretchen Nies voted in favor of pulling the program out of the 3A Metro League and building an independent schedule.
The decision will likely become final this week as the high school administration must report the status of the program to the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) by Oct. 13. The decision affects the next two-year cycle with CHSAA, at which point Summit High can stay independent or apply to rejoin the 3A Metro League.
By being independent, a team forfeits postseason opportunities. Summit has fielded a varsity football team the last 15 years, and has never been independent of a league.
The decision will not affect any of Summit High’s 22 other varsity sports, nor will it affect the high school’s affiliation in CHSAA.
After 1 hour and 15 minutes of discussion Monday night, the group of coaches, parents and players voted nearly unanimously to go independent.
According to Nies, the goal of going independent is to allow the football players to compete in a schedule that is more balanced. This, in turn, hopefully will inspire more young children to get involved with the program.
So far, the Tigers are 0-6 and have been outscored 278-30.
“The whole point of this is to get more kids in the program,” Nies told the audience.
And while Tim Garule, whose son is a sophomore football player, provided the lone dissenting vote, he conceded he would not fight the decision.
Instead, Garule said the program needs more community involvement, noting that such an action will be particularly difficult based on the transient nature of Summit County’s population.
“In a resort community, getting the community involved will be the hardest thing you ever do,” Garule said. “You’re not just talking about the high school, you’re talking about the entirety of Summit County. We need the entire community involved to turn this thing around.”
At the beginning of the last two-year cycle with CHSAA, Battle Mountain High School in Eagle-Vail left the 3A Western Slope to become independent.
“What led us to that was the disparity of the competition in (our program) and the other programs in the league,” said Fred Koetteritz, Battle Mountain athletic director and assistant football coach.
Battle Mountain is on the same two-year cycle as Summit, and has chosen to re-enter the same Class 3A Western Slope League it withdrew from two years ago.
This year, the Huskies are 0-6, including a 25-12 loss to Class A Plateau Valley. In 2002, Battle Mountain went 1-8 and was outscored 382-68. The Huskies have also dealt with player suspensions and four new coaches in the last four years.
Nies talked to Koetteritz, Aspen athletic director Carol Sams and Arvada coaches and staff. Aspen dropped its program, restarted it as a junior varsity only and rejoined varsity play last season and had some success. Arvada is in its second year of being independent and, according to Nies, said it has been boosted by the decision.
According to Koetteritz, new community programs have infused the program with a strong base of athletes.
“Our community rec leagues started pee-wee football across our valley,” Koetteritz said. “And this year’s freshman class at Battle Mountain is the first group of kids who had the benefit of playing organized football at an earlier age than middle school.”
And that’s what Garule wants to see happen here. Garule suggested everything from making sure that local churches and community groups stay abreast of the team, to creating an invitational competition for other pee-wee leagues, like the Snow Tigers, to be held in Summit County.
Another idea put forward at Monday night’s meeting include getting the varsity players to make regular appearances at activities that include Summit County’s youngest members.
“There’s a sense of awe that the middle school kids have of high school athletes,” Nies said.
When sophomore Drew Arnesen was in middle school, a visit by the high school team helped inspire him to play football.
“A couple of kids came and told me they couldn’t wait to see me at the high school,” Arnesen said.
Who will the Tigers play?
After an initial meeting held on Sept. 30, Nies began to see that an independent status was likely the best option.
Nies began finding out just who the Tigers would play.
Building off of relationships that Summit High has from its days playings 2A, Nies already has possibilities in the 2A Tri-Peaks League as well as a variety of private schools in Denver.
In the agenda that Nies passed out to participants in the meeting, she already had a list of a dozen schools that Summit might be able to play, as well as a list of several schools to be contacted.
Because the Tri-Peaks league has nine teams, each team must play one nonleague opponent during the course of the season. Nies hopes to see the Tigers occupy some of those available slots, especially with some of the local mountain teams, such as Buena Vista, Salida and Lake County.
Nies plans to continue the grassroots effort until the Tigers have a complete 10-game schedule, no later than mid-November.
Several coaches made sure to emphasize that they’re not looking to make the schedule easy, just more competitive.
Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at email@example.com.
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