With promising sophomore class, Summit High football excited for future | SummitDaily.com

With promising sophomore class, Summit High football excited for future

Junior captain Aidan Collins figures to again be one of state’s best receivers in 2021

Summit High School junior wide receiver Aidan Collins runs with the ball downfield during Summit's 20-6 loss at Thompson Valley on Nov. 21.
Photo by Kerri Elam

DILLON — For a high school football head coach like James Wagner, saying “goodbye” to your senior class is never easy. That sentiment is only amplified in 2020 during a year when coaches and players have been through so much together on and off the field.

But as Wagner enters his third offseason with the program, the future does appear bright for the Summit High School football program. And that’s in large part thanks to a talented sophomore class that picked up experience all over the field during the Tigers 1-4 campaign that ended with a 36-16 loss to Bennett on Saturday, Nov. 28.

In the wake of the final game of the season, Wagner described what encouraged him from each of those young players this season. This is a group of sophomores that were freshmen when Wagner began his tenure before the 2019 season. And when you combine their physical and mental maturation this season with a top-flight talent like junior captain wide receiver and defensive back Aidan Collins, Wagner thinks the Tigers can reach new heights in the next two years.

“I’ve probably got seven to eight sophomores that I started on a daily basis,” Wagner said. “These guys are young, and they are still learning. They are still growing as players. But those things we are continuing to teach.”

Wagner gushed about sophomore offensive and defensive lineman Eli Krawczuk.

“He is just a beast,” Wagner said. “There’s no other way to put it.”

Wagner said Krawczuk played at about 70% due to a high-ankle sprain after the 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pounder put on 45 pounds of strength in the offseason. Despite the lingering injury, Wagner said Krawczuk’s coachability enabled him this season to take steps forward as a player and as a person. In Saturday’s game at Bennett, Krawczuk put the exclamation point on a standout season with six solo tackles including one for a loss.

The physical nature of Krawczuk’s game is something that Wagner also applied to sophomore inside linebackers Jack Schierholz and Keaton Smith. Next season, both players figure to be more involved in Summit’s offensive attack. Schierholz looks to be the successor to quarterback and departing senior captain Cam Kalaf.

This season, though, they made their mark on the defensive end, gaining confidence as they filled gaps and fought in the trenches as much as anyone. In Summit’s win at Thornton, Schierholz had a standout day with four tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and an interception.

Specific to Smith, Wagner said the inside linebacker brought terrific football technique and football understanding to the defense, but he needs to get stronger in the weight room this offseason.

In sophomore Silas Sandshaw, Wagner said he has a big kid full of potential who is still maturing in terms of competing every play and recognizing and knowing his jobs and assignments in the Tigers’ relatively complex offense.

The coach said sophomore wide receiver and defensive back Christian Broughton reminds him of a smaller Collins. What Wagner loves about Broughton is he’s the kind of guy who will rub off on others and help the Tigers be consistent.

As for sophomore tight end and outside linebacker Zach Elam, Wagner said he’s already an impressive physical specimen who is coming along slowly but surely in terms of improving his instincts to take advantage of his 6-foot-2-inch, 190-pound frame.

“By the time he’s a senior in a couple of years, he’s going to be a force,” Wagner said.

One thing that is certain is Collins will be a force next season. The only returning Tigers captain will enter 2021 after scoring 11 touchdowns and averaging 153.2 receiving yards per game on 45 catches. The do-it-all offensive weapon reeled in 766 yards this season — a clip of 17 yards per reception — while also amassing 24 solo tackles and 26 assisted tackles.

But Collins’ senior swan song next season is a long ways away. Wagner said he and his staff are still in the process of figuring out exactly how and when they’ll return to the weight room and offseason football workouts amid COVID-19.

For now, that’s OK. After all the Tigers have been through, he knows they have earned some time to deflate.

“These kids deserve a break — mentally and physically,” Wagner said. But what I’m excited about is I have these guys bought in. And they want to be bought in.”

Graphic by Antonio Olivero / aolivero@summitdaily.com

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