Summers in the middle of WHS’s success
Whittell High senior middle linebacker Jake Summers has played for more football coaches during his four years with the Warriors than some players have en route to the NFL.
Summers is working with his fourth head coach in four years, a measuring stick of inconsistency in the program’s direction that hasn’t prevented the four-year varsity player from reaching his potential.
First-year Whittell High football coach Mike Evans came to Summers and 11 other Warrior seniors’ rescue last spring. The coach who commutes from Reno has righted a flighty program that reached rock bottom in 2001 when the Warriors went 0-9.
“He loves football more than anybody I’ve ever known,” Summers said. “He makes everyone try harder and picks out the little details that we need to work on that makes us win games.”
The respect is mutual. When Evans starts talking about what Summers has meant to the 2002 Warriors, you get the idea that the team couldn’t have reached the playoffs without him.
“We designed our defense around Jake’s ability to seek out the running back,” said Evans about his busy linebacker. “We don’t let him take a play off. If we wanted the opposing team to gain five or more yards, then you’d take Jake out of the game.”
And Evans doesn’t even go there — not even if your star player is about to hack out his lungs.
“In the Battle Mountain game we lost three running backs and he was the only one left, and he was sicker than a dog,” Evans said. “It was at the point where I wanted to call a time-out so he could take some cough syrup.”
At 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, Summers doesn’t look like he could stifle an opposing team’s running game. What he lacks in size, though, Summers makes up for with his uncommon instincts and passion for the game.
“He’s an instinctive player who always finds a crease to get to the running back,” Evans said. “If you have a couple of players like Jake, you have a chance to win. “
Summers’ season statistics reflect Evans’ words of praise.
For the season, Summers has collected 171 tackles, or 19 per game. He made 22 tackles and forced two fumbles in a playoff-clinching 30-0 drubbing of Incline last Saturday in Zephyr Cove.
Perhaps his best game came against top-ranked Lovelock, the Warriors’ playoff opponent on Saturday. He was credited with 24 tackles in a 28-12 defeat.
“I love hitting,” Summers said. “Ever since I started playing in Pop Warner, it’s made me feel like a macho man, making the tackles. I like defense so much.”
But Evans doesn’t have the luxury of restricting Summers to the defensive unit. In fact, Summers also is an invaluable contributor to the offense. He leads the team in rushing with 497 yards and seven touchdowns.
“It’s kind of weird going back and forth, giving a blow when people are trying to hit me. I just like the contact,” Summers said.
Evans has learned not to be fooled into thinking Summers is injured after his two-way star is slow to get up from a tackle.
“He looks like he’s never going to get up. He gets up slow every play,” Evans said.
Some players have game faces; Summers always shows he’s into a game by the way his jersey is hanging.
“I want all of my players’ shirts tucked in, but he plays so hard his shirt is always untucked. He’s like an unmade bed sometimes,” Evans said.
Naturally, Evans is building his defensive game plan for Lovelock around Summers’ ability to make plays. But unlike the first meeting, Evans will give Summers the opportunity to make some potential game-turning plays.
“I have no doubt he can have 20-plus tackles, but we need to give him a chance to make some for losses. We need to let him take some chances, and anything can happen when you do that if the breaks go right,” Evans said.
Summers has never won a playoff football game and doesn’t want his final game to come on Saturday in Lovelock.
“It feels good to be in the playoffs for my last year. Our first goal was make the playoffs, but now that we’ve accomplished that we’ll try to move on.”
Upsetting Nevada 2A’s top team would be a nice gift for Evans, a coach that believes in the Warriors and has shown them how to be successful. He has brought stability to the program, and now Summers is the one who is about to leave.
— Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or at email@example.com
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