Football: Summit High Tigers lose to Niwot, 14-17, after 2-0 start |

Football: Summit High Tigers lose to Niwot, 14-17, after 2-0 start

Summit vs. Niwot — Sept. 9

1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q Final

Summit 7 0 0 7 14

Niwot 0 0 10 7 17

It’s no fun to lose a home opener.

It’s also no fun to lose, period, but that’s not something this year’s Summit High football team had tasted until Friday night. And that’s OK — this was bound to happen. Just rough that it was at the home opener.

In front of a jam-packed crowd at Tigers Stadium, the Tigers lost a close one to the Niwot Cougars, 14-17, for the home team’s first loss of the season after a promising (and rare) 2-0 start. This was bound to happen, and a loss is no fun, but the Tigers did what they set out to do: they put on a show for the crowd.

Most everyone standing shoulder to shoulder in the stands hadn’t seen the new-and-improved Tigers yet, and the team didn’t disappoint. These guys (new head coach John Shirkey included) have skill, good instincts and pride. That last one was in short supply the past few years.

It started on the very first drive, when junior Vale Hildebrand faked the punt for a 27-yard run on fourth and four. That got his new quarterback, junior Jake Gillum, to the Cougars 48 yard line. Senior workhorse Adolfo Vasquez had a few basher runs and Gillum was connecting most times he passed. A high snap in Niwot territory forced a turnover, but man, this Tigers team looked good until that one mistake.

Then they turned a sweet punt from Hildebrand — he really does punt when he has to! — into a gimmee touchdown. The Niwot receiver bobbled the ball and Summit were right there to pick it up. Senior running back Matt Francomano punched it in from the one-yard line and Summit had the 7-0 lead, thanks to pressure on a punt return (also butterfingers). Nice.

Summit held Niwot scoreless through the first half, including a clutch stop on the goal line with less than 15 seconds before the whistle. The defensive line showed grit and intelligence on the failed Cougars drive, forcing them to eat up nearly 10 seconds on a zero-yardage run. By the time Niwot reset at the line, the clock had run out and Summit entered the locker room ahead, 7-0. It’s the kind of clock management — and stonewalling — Summit fans haven’t seen in a while.

Who knows what was said in the Niwot locker room, but like the Tigers in the first half, the Cougars wasted no time finding the end zone in the second with a set of wham-bam run plays to even the score, 7-7.

Niwot then got a field goal to go up 10-7, but only after Summit sophomore guard Ethan Drewes stuffed the Cougars big threat, Jeremy Hollingsworth. These Tigers have teeth in the red zone. Nice.

Niwot got another in the fourth on fast, huge breakaways from Hollingsworth and went up, 17-7. The Summit offense had looked pretty stale in the third and Shirkey needed that to change, stat.

It did. Gillum and Hilderbrand pulled off a few deep passes on fourth downs, then a few fouls by the Cougars (both teams had plenty) pushed the quarterback within striking distance. They had struggled there all night: drives to the Niwot 40 or 30 usually ended in failed fourth-down conversions.

This time, back-up QB Brendan Collins connected with senior wide Eric Robinson for the big, juicy play the Tigers needed to get inside the 10-yard line. Senior Tye Brown-Wolf ran it up the middle for the touchdown to make things an interesting 14-17 with 2:30 left to go.

Niwot held Summit at bay, but Shirkey’s guys looked like they were having fun. So did the crowd. Nice.

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