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SPRINTING down the right sideline on a kickoff return against Whiteland last Friday night, Columbus North’s Taylor Summa was one man away from breaking free.
Anyone who watches the Bull Dogs knows there are few high school players who can catch Summa from behind. If Summa could get past Whiteland kicker Carter Beers, it would be a touchdown.
Somehow, though, Beers managed to tangle up Summa’s legs and push him out of bounds at Whiteland’s 31-yard line after a 50-yard return.
“I thought I would run over him,” Summa said with a smile after a North practice this week to prepare for tonight’s second-round sectional game against visiting Franklin Central. “But he managed to push me out of bounds. My teammates all gave me grief. I can’t tell you what they said to me ... well, let’s just say they said I ran like a girl.”
Summa did have the last laugh against Whiteland. He took back his next kickoff return 80 yards for a touchdown. On three kickoff returns, he had 170 yards.
“I was really surprised they kicked to me again,” he said. “Most teams, after one good return, they will kick away from you.”
The Warriors looked overmatched against Summa on his touchdown return.
“It was my blockers up front,” Summa said. “They start it off. I had perfect holes.”
While North’s blockers did blow open holes, Summa has a natural talent for seeing the holes when bodies are flying everywhere.
“I guess you could compare it to running through buffaloes or something,” Summa said. “One wrong move, and they drill me.”
He doesn’t get drilled that often.
“Taylor is a game-breaker,” North coach Tim Bless said. “It’s been frustrating this season that we haven’t been getting him touches on offense.”
A wide receiver on a team that primarily runs the ball, Summa has had a rather quiet senior year in terms of catching the ball.
“It’s been hard because he had about 10 touchdowns receiving last year,” Bless said. “He is a soft-spoken kid who has his teammates’ respect. That’s why he is a team captain.”
With the Bull Dogs’ passing game struggling early in the season, Summa concentrated on his role as a safety.
“He has been rock solid,” Bless said of Summa’s play on defense. “He is the general of our secondary.”
With four-consecutive wins, North’s season now contains several pleasant memories for Summa, who persevered through a 1-5 start and now has scored four touchdowns in the past two games. Two came on pass receptions — one on his kickoff return and the other a 71-yard interception return.
“At the beginning of the season, it was a drag,” Summa said. “But we bounced back and put our hearts into practice.
“And I give props to (quarterback) Michael Vogel for getting better. At the beginning of the year, he was not feeling it. We only passed when we were in a predicament.”
Although North’s passing attack has made substantial gains — Summa has caught a touchdown pass in each of the past two games — it still isn’t a wide-open attack.
“I would love to be on a team that threw the ball every play,” Summa said with a laugh.
Perhaps in the future he will get his wish. Summa is considering six universities that have shown interest in him continuing his football career.
“But the main thing for me is academics,” he said.
The main thing for him tonight is beating Franklin Central, which beat North 42-35 in the regular season. Summa had a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Flashes in that game along with two receptions for 78 yards.
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