The Woodland Park football team came within a whisker of qualifying for the Class 2A state playoffs this season. After besting The Classical Academy Saturday, the Panthers moved from No. 22 to No. 16 in RPI standings. But No. 19 Engelwood were champions of the Colorado Conference, automatically guaranteeing them a spot in the playoffs per league procedure, thus bumping Woodland Park out of the playoffs.

The Woodland Park football team came within a whisker of qualifying for the Class 2A state playoffs this season.

The Panthers improved to 5-4 Saturday after defeating Tri-Peaks Conference rival The Classical Academy, 28-20, in the regular season finale for both teams. The win gave Woodland Park its first winning record since 2005 (7-3).

Following the TCA victory, Woodland Park coach Joe Roskam crunched numbers to see how his team fared in the RPI standings. Knowing the top 16 in RPI qualify for the playoffs, Roskam’s math showed the Panthers moving from No. 22 to No. 16, thus qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 2000.

Early Sunday, the RPI standings were updated on the CHSSA website, placing the Panthers at No. 16. Roskam was ecstatic, but when he took a closer look, he realized that No. 19 Englewood (7-2), champions of the Colorado Conference, would automatically move up to No. 16 and take the Panthers’ position. The reason: all league champions are guaranteed a playoff spot, regardless of where they finish in the RPI.

Always the forward thinker, Roskam sent an email to players, coaches and parents congratulating them on a great season and encouraging everyone to start working hard toward the 2020 campaign.

“We get back in the weight room on Nov. 11, and on Aug. 28 we line up at Lincoln,” he said. “The week after that we get Elizabeth at home. Next season, we’ll play our way in (to the playoffs) instead of pray our way in.”

Four of the six Tri-Peaks League teams made the postseason. “We’re the SEC of 2A,” Roskam said.

TCA was No. 4 in the RPI at the time it played Woodland Park. It was Woodland Park’s first-ever victory over TCA in four tries.

Woodland Park junior quarterback Colin Kucera had the best all-around game of his career, passing for a career-high 309 yards and four touchdowns. He completed 23 of 32 attempts to six different receivers.

Senior Elliott Patterson hauled in 12 catches for 170 yards (both career highs). Junior Bryson Cox had five receptions for 55 yards and two touchdowns.

Senior running back Matias “Smash” Lopez had a career-high 94 yards on 20 carries.

Junior running back Braden Roskam, the team’s leading rusher, was unable to play more than a few snaps due to an injured foot.

“The way this season ended is a heartbreaker, but it doesn’t define us,” Joe Roskam said. “I’m not making any predictions for next year, but watch out because here we come.”

Woodland Park will return the bulk of its team next season.

Roskam praised this year’s seniors. “This is one of the best senior classes I’ve ever had,” he said. “They will be tough to replace, but we have a lot coming back.”

Woodland Park’s impressive season came on the heels of an 0-9 campaign in 2018.

“Last year we took our lumps to give our lumps,” Roskam said.

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