Despite Shaky Start, Football Team Still Eying Post-Season Play
The Woodland Park Panthers’ football team face their final three games in a rebuilding year that started out bad, but then amazingly rebounded, capped by a stellar performance during homecoming weekend.
In fact, the team could end on a winning note, and with a little luck, could net another playoff appearance. Two of their remaining opponents have losing records, a fact that could bode well for the Panthers’ post-season prospects.
Hopes were high for Woodland Park Panther fans when the season started due to their stellar performance last year that put the team in the playoffs for the first time in more than two decades. But when the season began, the Panthers got dominated during their first three games. The team lost a number of key stars from last year’s championship squad due to graduation and relocations.
In fact, the team only scored two points during their first three matches, with two games being shutouts. For the first three weeks, the Panther offense couldn’t get a point on the board, but then their bye week happened.
That became a turning point for the WP team.
The Panthers had an early bye after their three losses in a row, and then they came back swinging. Whatever was changed or discussed during their week off must have worked, as they returned as a new team.
Following their break, the Panthers traveled down the Pass to challenge the 3-0 Colorado Springs Christian School Lions. Woodland Park then came out of nowhere and overtook the undefeated Lions by a shocking 24-7 victory.
The Panther team showed up at the UCCS football field where the Lions call home in the Springs and were quick to put up 14 unanswered points before the first half ended. The Lions scored at the end of the second quarter to narrow the Panthers’ lead at halftime.
Another touchdown in the third quarter and a whopping 48-yard field goal by Panthers’ kicker sophomore Myles Wiley would seal the deal for the local team. The defense dominated the Lions with six interceptions during the game.
After their underdog victory, the Panthers then saw themselves up against their most hated rivals (the 3-1 Manitou Springs Mustangs) for their homecoming week matchup. The stands were packed with lines to enter the stadium at near record lengths.
Initially, the Panthers appeared as the weaker link. Their defense was holding up, but getting occasionally tricked. And their offense didn’t look like they were going to find their rhythm.
However, the Panthers stayed mentally tough, even though they were down at halftime 15 to 7. In the third quarter, the Panthers capitalized off a turnover on downs and picked up a touchdown to make it 15-13.
In the fourth quarter, Manitou picked up a safety and a touchdown extending their lead to 24-13. But then with less than three minutes to play in the game, the Panthers went to the air for a touchdown making the score 24-19.
The team then went for an onside kick and picked up the recovery putting them in great field position with around two minutes left to play. The Panthers drove down the field and picked up another passing touchdown with under a minute left on the clock making the score 25-24.
The victory over the Mustang shocked football insiders, and even gained a hefty notice on the “Friday Night Blitz” segment, hosted by KRDO TV, with considerable footage aired from the Panthers/Mustangs showdown.
More importantly, the Panthers generated some impressive statistics.
During the game, Panther quarterback Marqus Schoenberger made 16 completions out of 31 attempts and passed for 265 yards with three touchdowns. The team also had a total of 34 carries for 138 yards.
For the season (as of our press deadline), Schoenberger had passed for 548 yards, four touchdowns and has a QB rating of 70.5. He has also picked up 95 rushing yards.
Junior Aidan Hood leads the team in rushing with 48 carries for 150 yards. When it comes to passing junior Parker Shreeve has caught the ball nine times for 166 yards.
On defense, Shreeve leads the team with a total of 45 tackles and four sacks. Senior Evan Bamesberger and senior Griffin King lead the team’s back field with three interceptions apiece.
The Panthers only have a handful of games left to play in the season. If they keep picking up “Ws,” they could see postseason action for the second year in a row. This Friday, the Panthers come back home to challenge the 1-4 Sand Creek Scorpions.
The Panthers last home game is next Friday night against the 3-2 Lamar Thunder. The team then finishes their regular season on the road against the 0-5 Alamosa Mean Moose.
Whatever record they post, the Panther pigskin squad this year has fared quite well, considering the loss of key players from the 2022 season and their youth. They appear on a good track for the future.