Summit football readies for challenge of potent, well-coached Aspen Skiers
Tigers (1-1) host Skiers (1-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Tiger Stadium
FRISCO — Coming off the high that was a 56-0 trouncing of Skyview last week, the Summit High School football team (1-1) has channeled a “throttle down” mantra in practice ahead of a tilt vs. Aspen (1-0) at 7 p.m. Friday.
“As a team, we don’t ever want to hang our hat on one game alone,” Summit coach James Wagner said Thursday. “Whether we win or lose, we got to be focused on the week ahead of us, channeling in where our mentality is going into each week.”
The other side of throttling down, Wagner said, is the ability to throttle back up when the time is right. The third-year coach is hoping Friday night at Tiger Stadium in Breckenridge will give the team a chance to get back up and make plays to go to 2-1 on the young season.
If Summit is to defeat Aspen, it’ll have to contain a Skiers’ offense that hung 42 points on Colorado Springs Christian in a 42-21 season-opening home win Aug. 27.
The Skiers have had two weeks to iron out first-game flaws with twice as much time to prep for the Tigers as Summit has had to ready for the Skiers. With all that time for Aspen to analyze the matchup, Wagner and the Tigers’ coaching staff fully expect the Skiers to apply bracket coverage to Tiger senior star wide receiver Aidan Collins in an attempt to contain the crafty speedster who scored four first-half touchdowns against Skyview.
Wagner said he has been encouraged with the early-season contributions the Tigers’ other top offensive playmakers have made surrounding Collins. That includes senior receiver Phil Berezinski, who made several plays against Skyview last week. There’s also junior Zach Elam, who leads a deep stable of tight ends and H-backs at the core of offensive coordinator Sean Mase’s Tigers offense.
If Berezinski, Elam and other Tigers’ offensive playmakers can keep the Skiers honest, it’ll open up more big-play opportunities for everyone — Collins included.
“It’s no secret that Aidan’s the man,” Wagner said. “Our guys know that, and they know we want to get him the ball because he is such a playmaker. But they also understand they need to step up when their name’s called. And those kids — Phil and Zach — when their name’s called, we know they will step up.”
Wagner said Berezinski has a classic senior confidence to him, the kind of focused, make-the-play verve that the coach said comes with veterans who know the value of playing in their final season. As for Elam, Wagner expects him to be the Tigers’ primary playmaker next year when Collins is gone.
So why not have Elam and his fellow junior, quarterback Jack Schierholz, reach that next level as a QB-TE tandem this season? They took their first step to that last week on a beautiful play-action pass in the red zone for Summit’s second of eight touchdowns versus Skyview. Wagner said Elam has progressed in three seasons to have this be his breakout year.
“He’s starting to flourish,” the coach said.
In the Tigers’ offensive backfield, Wagner and Mase are content having powerful senior running back Alex Sanchez lead the way through two games. Sanchez averaged 4.3 yards on 10 carries against the Wolverines, including a touchdown tote.
“He’s a senior back there who’s a guy you can trust,” Wagner said. “He knows and understands what the role and job is.”
Wagner said Collins at free safety and Berezinski at weak-side cornerback will be the two playmakers Summit looks to to contain Aspen’s passing attack near the line of scrimmage and downfield. Collins is the team’s leading tackler who had an interception last week, and Berezinski is a versatile guy who Wagner said can excel at any spot on the field. Like Summit, Wagner said the Skiers are replete with athletes who they’d like to get the ball to out on the edge from their spread offensive attack.
Wagner said Aspen will bring a hungry mentality to Friday’s matchup. The coach added that Friday is an opportunity the program has been building up to for three years.
Wagner is confident the Tigers can compete in the trenches on both sides of the ball. On the defensive end, that centers around a 6-foot-3-inch, 270-pound junior in Eli Krawczuk, who’s proven to be “a man among boys,” Wagner said. Add in a deep stash of athletic defensive ends who can stay fresh by rotating in and out of the game, and the coach likes his chances.
“That helps throughout the duration of a game to have that pin-your-ears-back mentality to get after it,” Wagner said. “It’s refreshing for me to have studs down there who can make plays.”
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Peter Arnold’s playing career ended after high school, but his time on the ice continues a few decades later. A longtime USA Hockey official and new Aspen resident, Arnold is searching for the next generation of hockey referees among the youth ranks here in the Roaring Fork Valley.