With the kick-off of another school year this week, the fall athletic season heads into high gear, showcasing six different sports and four well-known teams. The autumn lineup runs the gamut from the ever popular Panthers football program to lesser-known sports like cross-country.
But surprisingly, the most intriguing fall story for the Woodland Park Panthers centers on its super impressive softball team.
This team, which has won their league in three consecutive years, will try to continue their softball dominance. This will be a hard task for the team as seven varsity players graduated last year. That’s over half the roster. Even with a large number of graduating seniors Woodland Park still has to like their chances to four-peat for two reasons. The biggest reason is that they play in an extremely weak league with Mesa Ridge emerging as the only legitimate threat. The other reason, serving as another confidence-builder, is that they have an extraordinarily deep program. The softball team’s first game is set for September 2 in the Sheridan Tournament against The Classical Academy.
A team that hopes to rival softball’s continual success is the Panthers’ football squad. Last season, the team got out to a fast start, winning three of their first four games. Then the team took a brutal blow when they lost their starting quarterback, Matt Cox, for the season with a broken leg. The team then fell apart only winning one of its last six games.
This year Woodland Park still has a question mark at quarterback with Cox graduating, leaving the spot open for competition. While the offense has question marks, the defense has several extreme strong points with two very good linebackers in Senior Orion Drummand and Senior Dan Knapp.
The team will hope their strong defense can help them make it to the playoffs for the first time since 2000. Maybe they can burrow a play book from the Denver Broncos, who fooled the odds-makers during last year’s Super Bowl bid with defense, defense and defense.
Woodland Park has a pre-season game against Cheyenne Mountain on August 26. Their first season game is scheduled for September 2 at home against Elizabeth.
Another team that is definitely trying to find its way is the Woodland Park boys’ soccer team. The team last year did not win a game and went 0-14. It would be easy to say that the problem with last year’s team was that it featured a young team without much in the way of senior leadership.
The problem with this narrative, though, is that the soccer team two years ago also had a dreadful season, finishing 1-14. These records don’t inspire much confidence that the soccer team will be able to turn it around this year. One of the few positives you can take away from the WP soccer team is that they are a very young unit. In fact, last year’s team hardly had any upperclassmen. So it would not be impossible for the 2016 team to be a promising squad of foot soldiers in a year or two, but it is pretty unlikely that they will garner many wins this year. The team’s first game is September 6 against Falcon at home.
The fourth and final team sport that occurs in the fall is volleyball. The Woodland Park volleyball team last year finished with an impressive record of 16-9. That is their best record since 2009. Even with this stellar record, allowing them to finish third in their league and make a playoff appearance, the volleyball team lost to Valor Christian in their first game. The team did lose six seniors, who will be hard to replace. But this is a task the WP Volleyball team should be able to handle. The team’s first game is August 30 against Buena Vista.
In conclusion, it is not wishful thinking for a majority of the Panther sports teams to mount a successful bid to a playoff game this fall. As a whole, Woodland Park boasts many positives in their fall athletic programs. And more importantly, these teams should be very entertaining to watch.