WOODLAND PARK - Woodland Park ended the non-league portion of its football schedule with a 28-0 home loss to Pueblo Central on Sept. 28.
“We’ve been trying to find our defense,” said senior two-way starter Joe Callahan. “We need to swarm to the football and wrap up on tackles. We also need to rally around the team when we make a big play.
The Panthers (2-3) have lost three of four games since a season-opening 52-36 victory over Englewood. Liberty beat Woodland Park, 42-14, in Week 2. That was followed with a 26-20 Panthers victory over Harrison, and a 34-6 stunning loss to Sierra.
For what it’s worth, in 2011 Woodland Park lost to Harrison (27-26), but defeated Sierra (27-14) and Pueblo Central (34-26).
The Panthers are allowing an average of 32 points per game, which is actually an improvement over last season when the team allowed 34.8 points per game.
“We still give up too many points,” said Callahan, who plays defensive end, wide receiver and handles the punting chores. “Our defense sets up our offense. We haven’t done enough to help out the offense.”
Perhaps the biggest difference with this year’s team - compared to the 2011 crew - is the offense’s lack of big plays and ability to sustain drives. Head coach Joe Roskam came over from Sierra and brought with him an array of formations and multiple sets that had other teams confused.
The Panthers scored nearly 29 points per game in 2011, and scored 30 or more points four times. They were not shut out.
This year’s squad is averaging 19.6 points per game.
“We just have to move people,” said senior offensive tackle Caelen Garner. “We have to create holes for the running backs. We have to give (quarterback) Jacob (Censner) time.”
Censner is off the record-setting pace he had in 2011 when he set school marks for yards (2,006), touchdowns (23) and passing percentage (65 percent completion rate). This year, he is averaging about 140 yards per game through the air and has just five touchdown passes - four to Callahan.
The rocky start to this season can become a distant memory with a strong start in conference play. The Panthers open the Class 3A South Central League portion of their schedule Friday at Wasson (0-5). Wasson is coming off a wild 66-49 loss to Pueblo East. Woodland Park defeated Wasson 52-26 in 2011.
“A win will get us going,” said Woodland Park senior running back/linebacker Weston Shutts, who leads the team in rushing touchdowns (four) and tackles (34). “Everybody talks about it in the halls if you win a game.”
Garner agrees: “The community rallies around us,” he said. “If we hear them talking positively it gets our confidence up. We play like we know we can. We just have to go out and do it.”
The Panthers have a favorable start to league play. After Wasson, they host Mitchell (2-3) and are at Coronado (2-3).
“We know we can be better,” Callahan said. “The coaches have a lot of confidence in us. We all have to do our jobs. The crowd may not see us make that key block, but we know we did a good job.”