Tigers plow their way to state championship
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
GLENDALE – Alex Cooper peeled herself off the turf at Infinity Park, blood streaming from her nose, a heap of defenders on the ground at her heals, and the ball tucked safely underneath her for the try.
It was her fourth score of the day, her team’s seventh, and none of them came easily.
In an all-out slugfest of a game, the Tigers duked it out with a tough, physical Douglas County team Saturday in the Colorado State Championship game in Glendale.
The Tigers never really hit their stride in their normally free-flowing offense and never broke away for long tries. Yet, when all was said and done, the Summit High girls’ rugby team pulled out a 35-5 win, finishing off their undefeated season with a third straight state title.
“It’s definitely nice to know we can adjust,” Cooper said. “We can play our out-wide game or their game. Anything they throw at us, we can throw back.”
And the Tigers did so all afternoon at the renowned rugby facility, closing out a day that saw 11 SHS players earn all-state honors, including senior Heidi Gruber, who was named the state’s player of the year.
It didn’t come the way most would’ve expected from a team that was a high-flying offensive juggernaut all season, but it still came. And as the Tigers plowed over defenders up-and-down the field, scoring seven hard-nosed tries, they got the only thing that mattered: a win.
“They have some really good players, they were a good team,” SHS head coach Karl Barth said of Douglas County. “We chipped away at them. Tacked on a point here or there, but never really got it going. That’s what happens when you play a good team.”
Both teams showed some nerves at the start of the match, jostling back and forth at midfield in the opening minutes.
Then, Cooper blasted through a line of defenders for her first try, and the Tigers seemed to get their confidence back.
“I think everyone was a little nervous, but we were able to cool down the jitters and just be able to focus a little more,” Gruber said.
Summit reeled off two back-to-back scores midway through the half from junior Chloe Dudick and Gruber to take a 15-0 lead. And when Cooper crossed the endline for her second of the day at the 28-minute mark, the Tigers had a commanding 20-0 lead heading into the intermission.
Douglas County scored in the opening minutes of the second, but Summit played stingy defense the rest of the way, rarely letting the ball reach the Tiger half of the field.
Copper added two more tries and junior Emmy Griffith tacked one on in the second as well.
By the time the final horn sounded, the Tigers – bruised, battered and, in some instances, bleeding – stormed the field to celebrate what had been an astounding season.
Summit finished the fall a perfect 10-0 for the third consecutive season, but it’s how the team did it that’s more impressive. The Tigers outscored opponents 615-26, Saturday’s state final being their closest match.
Summit also cleaned up on hardware. Beyond Gruber’s award and the 11 all-state selections, the Tigers also claimed the team sportsmanship award, voted on by opposing teams. And Barth was named coach of the year.
So, sure, a player like Cooper is more used to standing upright in the tryzone after a 60-yard run than pulling herself off the ground while bleeding. But the only thing she or her teammates cared about afterward was the title.
Busted nose or no busted nose.
“They knocked us on the ground, but we went back at them,” Cooper said. “It was great.”
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