WOODLAND PARK - As a freshman, Jacob Censner reluctantly made the transition from running back to quarterback.
“We needed one,” he recalled. “So I got thrown in there. But I’m glad it happened.”
A lot of other people who follow Woodland Park High School football are also happy that Censner eventually embraced his role under center. In his first year as a full-time starter at the varsity level in 2011, Censner shattered school records for yards (2006), touchdowns (23) and passing percentage (65 percent completion rate) while helping resurrect a fledgling program.
“He’s a very solid player,” Woodland Park coach Joe Roskam said of Censner. “He really does put in the time. He didn’t miss any time in the weight room this summer. He studies extra game film. He’s also his hardest critic.”
Censner (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) is the main gear in high-octane Panthers’ offense. He helped Woodland Park improve to 2-1 by throwing for 116 yards and a touchdown during a 26-20 victory over Harrison on Sept. 14. He also rushed for a team-high 98 yards on 13 carries as the Panthers overcame a 13-point first-quarter deficit.
Censner is clearly large and in charge of one of the most explosive offenses in all Class 3A. He has completed 31 of 61 passes for 561 yards and five touchdowns. He leads the team in rushing with 213 yards on 34 attempts for a 6.27 average.
“We go as he goes,” Roskam said. “Offensively, everything runs through him.”
Roskam’s multi-spread formations allow Censner to have flexibility and multiple receiving targets. In 2011, four receivers caught 30 or more passes, including a school-record 48 from Louis Neil.
“It’s awesome being one of his main receivers,” said Woodland Park senior Joe Callahan, who has hauled in a team-leading nine catches for 278 yards (30.9 average) and four touchdowns. “It’s nice to be part of the winning.”
Senior wide out Adam Primrose also likes being part of the mix.
“Jacob has not thrown me a bad pass - ever,” said Primrose, who has six receptions for 71 yards. “He can get me the ball every time.
“He’s also very confident in the huddle. He gets us pumped up when we need to get back in the game.”
Censner got his feet wet at the varsity level in 2010 when he started three games (he played in four others) for a winless Panthers team. He took things in stride and, though he had a porous offensive line, he still led the team in passing despite not being the No. 1 guy that fall.
Roskam took over as coach for Brent Cottrell in 2011. The Panthers had lost 15 consecutive games. Roskam quickly turned an anemic offense into a high-flying spectacle that averaged 29 points per game.
Woodland Park lost three of its first four games, but as Censner gained confidence so did the rest of the team. The Panthers went on a three-game winning streak and made serious run at the playoffs. They were 4-3 in the Southern League and finished 5-5 overall.
Censer’s best game statistically came against Mitchell when he completed 21 of 27 passes for 324 yards and five touchdowns. He did not throw an interception and had a quarterback rating of 156.
“I love running this offense,” Censner said. “I probably trust myself running it more than I do throwing it. I like to hit people. Since I’m not allowed to play defense, that’s the only time I get to do it.”
Censer gained 141 yards on the ground as a junior. He’s averaging 71 per game this year, which would put him over 700 for the regular season.
The Panthers host Roskam’s former team, Sierra (2-1), Friday at 7 p.m.