This athletic calendar promised to be unlike any other and the Boulder football team is experiencing that early and often, and to a higher degree than most.
After opting to play in the springtime Season C rather than the fall Season A, the Panthers expected an unusual experience while they prepared for a different season amidst a pandemic. But well beyond what they expected and rather than practicing, the Panthers have spent nearly every waking moment adjusting to things they couldn’t have predicted or prepared for.
“Our guys have been through the wringer and shown some real resiliency,” Boulder head coach Ryan Bishop said. “We’ve been shut down a couple times because of COVID protocols and with the weather, we’ve been on the field like six times. It’s just been crazy. Monday was our first day back and, obviously, that’s when the shooting happened and we canceled practice on Tuesday out of respect for our kids and the community.
“Long story short, this team has already been through so much adversity based on things that are so far out of their control, and I’m so proud of our seniors and our coaches.”
Prior to the deadly shooting at the Table Mesa King Soopers that left the Boulder and Colorado communities devastated, the Panthers had already seen their season opener against Far Northeast canceled.
Experiencing the loss of a contest — a relatively insignificant one considering recent events — was nothing new to Panthers senior linebacker Drake Arthur, who was among a group of senior basketball players who were forced to sit out the Panthers’ final few games of Season B because of a COVID-19 exposure. Those quarantine issues carried over into the football season and the Panthers were unable to play Far Northeast on March 20.
The Panthers have already faced challenges far exceeding typical preseason hindrances like injuries and ineligibility, but the Boulder players are still willing to do whatever it takes to play football. And they’re glad to have at least some football season at all, even one that has already been shortened from the abbreviated six-game Season C regular season to five.
“I played basketball too and I just got out of that, which was also pretty crazy,” Arthur said. “Everybody is kind of giving us a write-off and thinks it would just be easier if we didn’t play. So we have to be disciplined and do things the right way. We have to play every game like it’s our last, because it really could be. And we’re going to try to go out there and have some fun and make sure to get the most out of the season while we can.”
In 2019, the Panthers finished with a 3-7 overall record and went 3-6 in the Metro 10 League. They graduated a solid group of seniors but return some talented players like Arthur, Luke Werner and Parker Patchett, the latter of whom led the team in rushing.
The Panthers are also playing in a new 5A North League – Adams City, Boulder, Fort Collins, Mountain Range, Northglenn and Westminster – that includes many of the same teams it would have played in the Metro 10. When they finally open the season against Mountain Range on Monday, the Panthers will have had only three or four padded practices.
But despite it all, Werner thinks they’ll be ready.
“I think we feel fresh and ready to go,” Werner said. “Whenever we’ve had the opportunity to, we’ve been preparing. Everything we’ve gone through has brought us closer together and we’re super excited to get the season started.”