Friday night was a night North Summit senior Josh Birk won't soon forget.
Not only did Birk run for two touchdowns and intercept two passes in the Braves' 45-29 victory against Gunnison, he was also named North Summit's homecoming king during a halftime celebration.
"It's been a good week for Josh," North Summit coach Devin Smith said. "He's a good athlete and I'm proud of what he did tonight. He made a lot of big plays."
But Birk is also quick to share the credit and stay humble about his outstanding night.
Those touchdown runs?
"I was very fortunate," he said. "Our line was blocking very well."
Birk was certainly right about that. The Braves ran roughshod through the Bulldogs' defense all night long.
In addition to Birk's 15-yard and 28-yard touchdown runs, Senior running back Trevor Hale had a seven-yard touchdown run, senior Nick Rees added a three-yard score and junior quarterback Ryan McMichael had a 30-yard scamper, a one-yard sneak and added a 13-yard touchdown pass to junior wideout Cameron Smith.
Birk's two interceptions?
"Defensively, I still gave up two or three touchdowns, so I was mad," he said. "[Gunnison] ran good routes. They're a good team."
It's true Birk had his hands full for most of the night. Gunnison quarterback Tyson Moosman and wide receiver Jacob Hatch were in sync all night long, hooking up for two touchdown passes and several long completions, a couple of which came at Birk's expense.
But Smith was still happy with the way the Braves battled against the Bulldogs' explosive offense.
"It was a shootout I'm sure it was fun for the fans to watch," he said. "They're a big-play offense and I'm pleased with how our defense played. Their quarterback throws it nice and they have some good receivers, but our kids held on."
The Bulldogs drove down the field with regularity on Friday night, but the Braves employed a "bend, don't break" style of defense, forcing turnovers at crucial moments.
In addition to Birk's two interceptions, Hale also picked off two Gunnison passes, including one in the end zone on the Bulldogs' last possession of the game to seal the North Summit victory. Hale also scooped up a fumble. Carson Richins also snagged an interception, while fumble recoveries by Baltazar Martinez and Cason DeForest rounded out the eight takeaways by the Braves' defense.
Birk's thoughts on being named homecoming king?
"That was awesome," he said. "I was shocked. I was very fortunate the student body voted me in. It was a fun weekend."
Smith said Birk's humility is no surprise to the players or the coaching staff.
"Josh is a team guy and we're all really proud of what he did individually, but I know he's proud of all his teammates, too," he said.
"It was a good team win," Birk added. "Especially after [a 21-7 loss last week to] Duchesne."
And to think, after the outstanding night he had, Birk almost didn't play football this year.
"I played until eighth grade, but then I had shoulder surgery my freshman year on my right shoulder," he said. "I really liked basketball, so I was just kind of timid. I didn't want to hurt it [playing football]. But I've been lifting a lot and it's gotten a lot stronger, so I figured I'd give it a shot this year."
He added that his return has been everything he could have hoped for.
"I love it," he said. "I missed it."
Birk figures to be an integral part of the Braves' playoff push this year. With a 2-1 record, the team has already matched its win total from last season.
But there's still plenty of work to be done leading up to this Friday's game at Summit Academy, Smith said.
"We turned it over a couple times early tonight," he said. "We got into them a little bit and they stepped up to the challenge. But we have got to take care of the football better. That's our Achilles' heel right now."
He added that ball security will be the focus of practice this week.
"We're going to enjoy this win first, but we're going to go get better."
All in all, though, Smith was happy with the Braves performance and thinks the best is yet to come for his team.
"I can't overstate how big this win was confidence, first region game I couldn't be more pleased with them," he said. "Winning is contagious and it feels good. It's a lot better waking up tomorrow with a win than with a loss."