That winning feeling: Summit High football tops Woodland Park 38-30 for first win since last October
Leading into Friday’s home-opener against Woodland Park, it had been more than 11 months since the Summit High School varsity football team had experienced the postgame bliss of a victory.
Just 13 unlucky seconds into the game, it felt like a win would wait at least another week. When Woodland Park’s Alex Malone returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a 6-0 lead, the energy was instantly sucked out of a packed Tiger Stadium.
Through three losses spread across 144 minutes of football thus far this season, the Tigers had yet to possess a lead versus their previous three opponents. Friday’s opening 13 seconds certainly seemed to fit the script too, as eager Summit football fans were hushed.
That was until Summit senior wide receiver and defensive back Max Duxbury saw Woodland Park’s 85-yard kickoff-return touchdown and raised them a 90-yarder of his own. Thirteen seconds after Woodland Park’s score, Duxbury raced to the endzone, and with a successful point-after attempt, the Tigers had their first lead of the season.
“It meant a ton,” said Tigers head football coach John Shirkey. “We knew Max was good and we knew he’s a weapon back there, and we felt we were close on kick return a couple of times, so we knew it was just a matter of time. And it turned out the timing of the play was absolutely huge.”
From that point forward, Summit’s players down on the field and its fans up in the stands didn’t relent the energy they put forth toward a win. By the end of a long night of high school football in Breckenridge, the temperature dipped 30 degrees and the Tigers (1-3) settled in to showcase a stable of offensive weapons to support their sophomore star Noah Martens.
Orchestrating it all was a senior quarterback in Brendan Collins, who Shirkey described as a player who has “prepared for this season his entire life.”
Collins seized the momentum early during a long and exciting first quarter when he connected with Duxbury for a 43-yard touchdown pass. Collins hung in the pocket and hurled the ball before he was struck by Woodland Park’s pass rush. With the PAT, the Tigers ultimately exited the fevered first quarter with a 21-12 lead and the kind of rush of offensive adrenaline they’d been waiting for all year.
“It’s so cliche to say he’s another coach out there,” Shirkey said of Collins, “but he really is. Like, he sees things that we don’t. He reminds us of things we don’t remember. He just felt like he was in control of that thing, which is what we need him to do. We do have a lot of weapons and a lot of guys that can make plays, it’s just a matter of getting them the ball.”
Collins then seemed to put the game away with 3:52 in the second quarter when he capped a methodical Tigers drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a 28-12 Summit lead. But Woodland Park answered with a 68-yard touchdown pass of their own from senior quarterback Michael Shrum to sophomore tight end Bryston Cox with 2:57 remaining in the half to pull back within 28-18.
At the half, Collins led the Tigers with a stat line of 7-of-13 passing with one touchdown and one interception for 89 yards through the air to go with two carries for eight yards and a rushing touchdown. It was a balanced and spread-out offensive half for Summit, as six different Tigers carried the ball paced by junior Brandon Montealegre’s four carries for 49 yards and a touchdown.
Summit also benefited from the return of their “workhorse,” as Shirkey described him, Martens. In the first half, Martens carried the ball six times for 22 hard-fought yards. It was clear Woodland Park was focused on stopping Martens’ jet sweeps off-tackle and his runs up the gut, treating it play-in and play-out as their primary defensive responsibility. Collins also connected with four different receivers in the half, as Summit worked its short-passing game — which they consider an extension of their running game — comfortably.
After Summit stalled out on fourth down on their opening drive of the third quarter, it became apparent this one would be a contest to the end. That was emphasized when Woodland Park’s Shrum capped their first drive of the second half with a 9-yard touchdown pass to sophomore running back Elliott Patterson to pull within 28-24. Woodland Park especially seemed to have momentum until Martens recovered a fumble at the 6:17 minute-mark of the third quarter, which led to a 33-yard field goal by Tigers sophomore am Pothier to extend the lead to 31-24.
The fourth quarter began with that 7-point margin for Summit until Martens capped a methodical Summit drive with an 11-yard touchdown run up the gut to extend the lead to 38-24 with 9:40 remaining. For the game, Martens ammassed 58 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries while adding 31 receiving yards on five catches. The sophomore’s return on Friday night was huge for Summit after he did not travel with the team last week because he attended his brother’s wedding the same night as their loss to Conifer.
“Having him back this week changed our whole offense,” Shirkey said.
That’d be all the scoring for Summit on the afternoon as the Tigers defense had to hold on against Woodland Park’s final pushes. Woodland Park capped a 90-plus yard drive with a quarterback-sneak touchdown with 4:20 remaining to pull within 38-30. Summit then fended off a Woodland Park drive in the final minutes when sophomore cornerback Kobe Cortright sniffed out a wide receiver screen, blowing the play up and intercepting a deflected pass in the process. For the effort, he proudly donned the Miami Hurricanes-like turnover chain new Tigers secondary coach Chris Franks brought to the program.
Woodland Park still had one last gasp, though. After reattaining possession with 71 seconds remaining, the visitor’s sailed their final prayers into the endzone to no avail. This hectic final drive reached its crescendo with just seven seconds remaining, as there was uncertainty on the Tigers sideline whether or not Summit had just stopped a fourth-down attempt to effectively end the game.
In the final fevered pitch, Shirkey’s assistant coaches said through his headset Woodland Park was getting a second fourth down. The chain crew said it was third down. Whatever the case, Woodland Park quickly assembled at the line of scrimmage and hiked the ball before unleashing a final Hail Mary. They couldn’t connect and, with that first Summit varsity football win since Oct. 6 of last year, the party was on for the Tigers.
“That kind of goes right into our theme and motto we talk about all the time,” Shirkey said, “‘No matter what happens, there is still time on the clock. You need to get to the next play, because that’s the most important one.”
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