Tigers come up short against Eagle Valley in wild homecoming game, 10-0 | SummitDaily.com

Tigers come up short against Eagle Valley in wild homecoming game, 10-0

Summit vs. Eagle Valley

1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q Final

Summit 0 0 0 0 0

EV 0 0 3 7 10

FRISCO — The Tigers let this one slip through their paws.

On Friday night, in front of a jam-packed homecoming crowd, Summit football lost a so-close-they-could-taste-it battle to cross-county rivals Eagle Valley, 10-0. The Tigers (1-4) had red-zone interceptions, vicious defensive tackles and one blocked punt that was nearly returned for a touchdown. But the Devils (4-1) still managed to find bursts of momentum, taking advantage of Summit’s missed opportunities with deep balls and powerful running in the final quarter.

“It’s a team effort out there,” defensive coordinator Jim Smith said. “The same kids playing offense are playing defense. We aren’t a two-platoon team. Every kid plays both ways, and they need to produce on both sides of the ball.”

Defense was the name of the game for both teams. Big Jack Anderson had multiple stops for the Tigers, including three tackles for losses on clutch third downs, and junior Adolfo Vasquez III had a hand on EV’s quarterback almost every other play. But the Devils often responded with a stonewall D-line of their own, holding senior Dekota Rhodes to nada every time the starting back tried for lanes up the middle. Finley had better luck with quarterback sneaks, but the Devils soon caught on to his explosive backfield trickery and started running him down at the line.

It wasn’t just the tough Tigers line getting things done. In the first half, the safetys and corners were just as hungry to make plays. Shortly after EV had a pick on the Summit 40 yard line, Vasquez responded on the very next drive with a pick of his own on the 15 yard line. The crowd exploded, the team got amped and, for the first time this season, the Tigers seemed legitimately convinced they could pull off an upset. Then the goal line defense forced another timely turnover late in the second quarter, when the Tigers pounced on the Devils’ at the 15 yard line (again) to enter the half with two key stops.

The game stayed tied at zero until late in the third quarter, when the Devils broke away with a 40-yard punt return to dig deep into Tigers territory. The defense held strong on the goal line for three straight drives, even when the Devils’ not-so-secret weapon, senior fullback Jay Neal, tried to power his way to the end zone. He’s a big, bad bruiser at 6 feet, 2 inches, but Smith and his defense had studied plenty of tape.

“Eagle Valley is a smash-mouth football team,” Smith said at practice before the homecoming game. “They’ve got a fullback who just runs over people. He is a tough runner. We just can’t allow him to run all over us.”

The strategy worked. EV settled for a field goal on the gimme drive. Summit took the kickoff at the end of the third quarter and went four-and-out to start the fourth.

Then, things got interesting. After stopping the Devils on their 25 yard line, freshman Ethan Drewes blocked the punt and gobbled up the ball, fighting his way through the confusion until he was stopped short at the four yard line. The Tigers’ two offensive heavyweights, sophomore receiver Vale Hildebrand and senior quarterback Tony Finley, tried in vain to barrel through the Devils’ line, losing three yards over three plays. Starting junior quarterback Luke Notaro wasn’t on the Tigers roster heading into the game.

Rather than tempt a field goal to tie the game 3-3, head coach Landon Greve went for a pass play on fourth and seven. But the Devils were wise to the game, and go-to receiver Hildebrand was smothered by defenders for an incomplete pass.

With the ball on the Devils’ seven yard line, Summit only had to continue containing the breakaway runs that have plagued their season. Summit had kept EV’s Neal quiet until then, just like Smith wanted.

“He’s a tough runner and he ran tough tonight, but our guys did a good job stopping hmm straight up the gut,” Smith said.

But it only took one or two blown tackles from Summit safetys to give Neal a chance at highlight-reel plays. He broke free on a swing route, barreling through three tackles before he was finally brought down on the Tigers 40 yard line. The ball then went to EV junior Kyle Williams, who ran for the lone touchdown in an otherwise tight and gritty defensive war.

It was a tough loss for the Tigers. Seniors like Finley, Anderson and Rhodes haven’t won a homecoming game in their high school careers, and for a brief moment, it seemed like they had a shot. The atmosphere was right, the energy was high, but communication and follow-through just didn’t click when the momentum was on their side. Anderson was noticeably frustrated on the final drive, pacing restlessly on the sidelines as Finley tried to make something — anything — happen with a Hail Mary pass to Hildebrand from the Summit 15 yard line. The Devils had him covered three deep and intercepted the ball to put the nail in the coffin.

“We fell just short tonight,” Smith said. “Now we’ll just have to clean it up for next week.”

The Tigers head to Delta (4-1) for the next league game on Oct. 9.

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