The Woodland Park varsity football team lost in a thriller against Mitchell Friday night, but displayed definite signs of improvement, including a revamped offensive attack.
This game was basically a wild roller coaster ride. Woodland Park would start with the ball and they came out angry. The Panther offensive line was pushing people around and junior running back Dominic Roskam was playing like he wanted to not only run over people, but to completely run through them. The Woodland Park offense, for maybe the first time all year, looked electric and unstoppable. The Panthers would cap off this first drive with a statement touchdown, the kind of touchdown that overcame a recent devastating blowout homecoming defeat. The Panthers, though, missed the extra point, and so they only took a 6-0 lead.
When Mitchell got to touch the ball, their offense was somewhat different than Woodland Park. The Marauders relied heavily on their senior quarterback, Sean Cooper, and he looked like he was on target at the start of the game. He quickly responded to the Panthers score with a 33-yard touchdown pass. Mitchell then went for a two-point conversion, as their team doesn’t sport a single kicker or punter on the roster. The Panthers stopped them, leaving the game tied at 6-6.
When Woodland Park got the ball back, their offense still looked like it was going to be lights out. With a combination of runs by Roskam and junior fullback Josh Simpson, they quickly threatened to score again. The Panthers then turned to their senior quarterback Christian Cox, but they couldn’t cross the end zone.
The second quarter is where the world started to get all topsy-turvy for the Panthers. Mitchell would start the quarter with the ball and they would fumble and give the ball right back to Woodland Park. Cox then would have his longest run of the year and put the Panthers in the red zone. It looked like Cox would also finish the drive with a touchdown run, but that play was called back because of a penalty. Even this setback couldn’t stop Woodland Park because Roskam would then bully his way into the end zone. The extra point would make it 13-6.
The rest of the second quarter would turn into a fumble parade, with both teams giving up the ball. Both of the teams weren’t able to score again, and the score at halftime was 13-6.
The third quarter was rather pedestrian and no significant blows were delivered by either side.
Mitchell started moving quite well in the fourth quarter, driving down to the 15-yard line. Then Mitchell got penalized and actually moved backwards. Woodland’s defense held strong, putting Mitchell in a tough predicament. Facing 23 yards to go for a first down, the Marauders elected to gamble. Cooper heaved the ball unsuccessfully up into the air, but Mitchell was able to capitalize on the gift of a penalty and an eventual touchdown. Then they converted on a two-point conversion and took a 14-13 lead.
The next drive for Woodland Park was a real gut check. Woodland Park immediately started driving the ball downfield, with Roskam carrying the team down to the 30-yard line.
Then after two short runs, Woodland Park faced a tough third down play. Cox came to the rescue, making two great throws to snag a Panthers first down. Now in the red zone, they handed the ball off to Roskam and he dove into the end zone. But suddenly the ball got loose. Time almost froze as the ball rested in the middle of the end zone. Woodland Park, though, fell on the ball and was awarded a much needed touchdown. They would take a 19-14 lead and try for two to make it a seven point game. But their attempt failed.
With just a few minutes left in the game, the Panthers were just one defensive stand from being able to go home as winners. But the Marauders refused to throw in the towel and succeeded in getting the ball to the 20-yard line with just a little less than two minutes left. Then Mitchell got a huge break, with an illegal block penalty. This changed the whole game scenario, as Mitchell decided to take a deep shot into the end zone. Although the play failed, the officials called a questionable pass interference penalty on a Woodland Park defender. Panther players and fans argued that the Woodland defender wasn’t even close to the receiver. Unfortunately, this play may have sealed the Panthers’ fate. Mitchell took advantage of what many say was an unfair call, and moved ahead 20-19, which was the final score.
While the Panthers came up short, they showed some fight, and for the most part, put together their most complete game of the year. It’s hard when a game with this much drama comes down to a penalty, because it feels like the game was taken out of the players’ hands. But as head coach Joe Roskam noted following the tough loss, “It is what it is.”
The Woodland Park Panthers play home against Canon City on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.
In other Woodland Park High School sporting news, The Lady Panthers volleyball team lost two league games, one against Sierra and one against The Classical Academy. Those two loses basically eliminate the volleyball team from the playoff hunt.
The boys’ soccer team, meanwhile, lost 10-1 against Mitchell. This makes their overall record 4-9. An interesting story to follow is the boys and girls’ cross country teams, both of whom will soon be competing in regionals.