About two dozen Woodland Park High School football players gathered amid the lush pines for two days of practice at Meadow Wood Park last week. Among their goals was to gain trust and confidence in each other.
“This is really vital,” said senior slot receiver/cornerback Elliott Patterson. “Last year, we had a lot of issues with culture and the way we interacted with each other. We were still brothers and we still loved each other, but it’s important that we spend this time together and bond and grow stronger together.”
With the official start of the football season less than two months away, the Panthers are installing part of their offensive and defensive schemes. Last Wednesday, the skilled position players on each side of the ball were put to the test during a 7-on-7 passing league game at Palmer. This week, the Panthers are in Denver for a tournament.
“We were young last year, and we’re pretty much going to be juniors this year, so the experience we get this summer will help us out a lot,” said long-time Panthers’ coach Joe Roskam. “If we do what we’re supposed to do, this is significant for us.”
The atmosphere at last week’s practices was fun and easygoing. Tyler Baldus and Colin Kucera drove to Meadow Wood wearing their helmets.
“It reminded us of (former teammate) Gino (Sanfelice) last year when he would drive to practice in his helmets and pads,” said junior wide receiver Tyler Baldus, who caught 22 passes last fall.
The Panthers will play 7-on-7 games through mid-July. They will continue their summer conditioning program through Aug. 1. Roskam will give the players a break before official practice gets underway Aug 12. Woodland Park’s first game is Sept. 6 at home against Conifer.
“This is great being out here,” said Kucera, who is battling for the starting quarterback job this fall. “Relearning the offense and getting down everybody’s route running is important now, so we’re all on the same page when the season begins. I have to know what to expect when I have to throw.
“We will be ready to play and ready to compete against anyone.”
The Panthers were 0-9 last season, their first at the Class 2A level after moving down from 3A.
“I hate losing, and I want to win, and I will do everything I can to help us win,” said junior tight end Bryson Cox. “Experience will be the biggest factor in our success this season. Last year, most of us were all sophomores. Our experience from last year will definitely carry over to this year and hopefully the results will be different.”