by Rick Langenberg:
The Woodland Park Panthers football team and their fans are still reeling from the tragic death of a head referee during their inaugural game of the season against Rampart Friday evening.
According to news reports, a graduate of Cheyenne Mountain and a president of a Colorado Springs bank, suddenly collapsed as referees were returning to the field to begin the second half. The official was rushed to Penrose-St. Francis Hospital, but was declared deceased that evening. Details still have not been released regarding the cause of his death.
But according to a report in the Colorado Springs Gazette, the head crew chief, George Demetriou, didn’t notice any signs of distress. “There was absolutely no sign that anything was amiss,” said Demetriou, according to a report in The Gazette. The crew chief noted that the referee collapsed, when he got up from his chair, as officials were getting ready to return to the field after a 15-minute half time intermission.
His collapse and sudden death forced immediate suspension of the football game, held at the District 20 Stadium in Colorado Springs, the first game of the season. The Panthers were trailing 28-0 at the time. The game was continued the following day, and Woodland Park ended up losing by a 40-7 margin. Still, the outcome of the game was somewhat deflated by the death of the referee, who has served on the Colorado Springs Football Officials Association for nearly 15 years. Many players and fans of both teams were emotionally rattled by the tragedy.
According to Woodland Park Panthers head coach Joe Roskam, the Saturday follow-up game “was a tough day for everybody.” In media reports, Roskam noted that the players handled the situation as well as expected, but contended that the referees were shaken up.
The Panthers football team hopes to return to normality when it plays Manitou Springs on Sept. 5 for its first home game.