Week 3 of the 2018 season kicked off like any other.
South Adams was up against an ACAC foe in Bluffton, then things went south. Running back Nic Stuber went down, later to be diagnosed with a torn ACL.
The Starfires won but had to turn elsewhere in the running game for Week 4. In that game, Heritage seized early control and led 20-0 at halftime.
Again, some movement was needed on offense.
South Adams coach Grant Moser made a bold choice to turn to a sophomore who wasn’t really an offensive guy. He plugged Christian Summersett in at tailback and the rest, as they say, became history.
Summersett ran for 207 yards on 17 carries with three touchdowns to propel the Starfires past the Patriots in that game. The thinner, clean shaven, tattoo-less sophomore Summersett then became Outside the Huddle’s first-ever Fan Vote Player of the Night winner.
“I hadn’t played much offense on varsity at all. I practiced tailback here or there but nothing like playing a whole game,” said Summersett, who only got a couple of touches in the Bluffton game after Stuber’s injury. “One of the most exciting nights of my football career was [against Heritage].”
Two and a half seasons later, Summersett has become a rushing juggernaut for the high-powered Starfire offense. With the eighth highest rushing yardage in Class 1A, the senior Summersett will help lead South Adams into Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday morning in the program’s first-ever state finals appearance.
For the entire program, including Summersett, getting to a Class 1A state final necessitated some changes after the 2019 season. South Adams was undefeated and rolling before it was knocked off by rival Adams Central in the regional round.
Despite other people’s big expectations for the Starfires, they were not going to make a state run last November. If they had any hope of playing on Thanksgiving weekend in 2020, changes had to come.
For Summersett, it became evident that one of those changes had to be in his own leadership. He did some research in the offseason about successful teams and says that the leadership for the Starfires was a lot different than what he had been reading about.
“I tried to make myself and some others get to where we are,” Summersett said. “Obviously it worked, so we want to just keep leading like we have been all year and hopefully we will get another win.”
“He could be selfish and immature,” Moser noted of Summersett’s beginnings. “This year, an absolute 180. Ridiculous as far as the leadership goes and the accountability. He holds other people accountable, he’s all in with teammates. It really does feel like we have four or five guys that are coaches on the field, which has been huge.”
Since pushing himself to be a better leader, Summersett has become one of a few guys on the team that have called some player-only meetings before big games, according to Moser. Summersett has also become a very selfless player, his coach said. There are plenty of times he comes off the field after not getting many, if any, touches on a drive and he is fine continuing to throw the ball and build bigger leads.
It is a better understanding of the game that has made him more selfless in those moments.
“I’ve gotten faster, stronger too. Knowing when to cut and certain situations yardage wise, it changes a lot,” Summersett said. “My sophomore year, I would just try to score and sometimes, that is not all that is needed to win a game like we do. I try to ground and pound the yardage and it seems to work out a lot better than it did.”
As a leader and part of the rotating captain landscape at South Adams, Summersett really has shown vocal tendencies to pick his teammates back up in scenarios where they are struggling.
Part of that too, Summersett will tell you, comes from playing each game in the memory of his cousin Alexa, who passed away in January 2019. With a tattoo memorializing her on his arm, Summersett derives plenty of motivation from their relationship. It has helped alter who he is and his growth in maturity on and off the football field.
“She impacted my life quite a bit. I used to be in trouble quite a bit. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been getting my stuff together. Everything just clicks better now” Summersett said. “She taught me a lot.”
Moser agrees that the loss of Alexa forced Summersett to grow up a little more and helped kick in more a zest for and drive in life and on the football field.
The drive continues into the state finals this weekend. Getting there hasn’t been breeze for the Starfires, no matter what the final scores of most of their games indicate. They’ve has to push through some obstacles and it has taken a balanced offensive effort.
Although South Adams is known for its deep passing game, the run has been crucial. Summersett has run for 1,163 yards on 196 carries in 13 games. It is the eighth highest rushing total in Class 1A and ranks 55th in the state; Summersett has run for 20 touchdowns in that time. That isn’t shabby at all for a program which has thrown for over 3,500 yards as well. Balance, despite what the surface stats may say, has been key.
“I think we can get our run game and pass game going at the same time. Like at Southwood, we weren’t really doing too well and we finally started being able to run the ball and it opened up our pass game a lot. It makes a big difference,” Summersett.
South Adams nearly lost Summersett in that regional round game at Southwood. An ankle injury in the first half took him out of the game. He winced and was openly emotional on the sidelines as he tried to sprint himself back into going back in the game. It wasn’t meant to be. But he did play defense in the second half, willing himself along and not wanting his high school career to possibly end on a sideline.
When Moser talked to him that weekend, he told him to rest up and they’d worry about the semistate round later with him probably not returning to practice until Thursday. Summersett was back in full pads on Tuesday, a testament to the toughness he is known for. He looked 100 percent that day.
Summersett has only missed one week of practice his entire career, that being this season after the Lewis Cass game. He hates sitting out and not practicing more than anything else he says.
South Adams has grown over the past four seasons. Each step, each lump required them to get better and get stronger. All of that can be seen in the development of Summersett, going from a 120-some pound freshman safety in 2017 to a rushing bulldozer and linebacker in 2020. Summersett is also now second all-time in career rushing yards at South Adams.
Weekly, South Adams gives out a chain award for the guy who helps hold the team together that week. Summersett has had it twice in 2020, including for the semistate game. Moser said the win over Lafayette Central Catholic helped him see two important things in Summersett: him picking up a teammate who was down after a turnover and bringing him back mentally, and also after the game when Summersett passed on the initial celebration with his teammates to go and hug each of the coaches.
“He is an incredible running back. He is an incredible blocker in the pass game,” Moser said. “But he’s always had an incredible work ethic, never once have had to question that.”