WMBD/WYZZ-TV - WASHINGTON, Ill. - Football is back in this town where a memorable 2013 season ended the same week a tornado tore through the town.
"Some of these guys had to grow up," explained coach Darrell Crouch. "There are still guys that aren't back yet, living in apartments. Other guys got their homes rebuilt. They're still deakling with some of that."
Football players were among those helping clean up Washington in the days following a devastating tornado on Nov. 17. They're hoping this
season is more about football than about recovery.
"I think we learned a lot of November 17. We have a lot of heart," said senior running back Jimmy McCaughey. "It's nice to focus on football after all the distractions of last year. We're ready to get after it again."
The Panthers won their first 12 games of the season, including a state quarterfinal win on Nov. 16 at home. The next day, an F-4 tornado ripped through Washington damaging some 1,000 homes.
"It's nice to be back and only worrying about the game. Of course, we still have some things we have to deal with outside (of football)," said senior lineman Gavin Dingledine. "But now it's mainly about football, getting it done on the field."
A different element to the Panthers season this year will be a brand new turfed field. Construction on it is a bit behind schedule but Washington is hoping to play on it Aug. 29 in the season opener against Bloomington Central Catholic.
"Right now we're waiting for the turf to get here," said Crouch. "They've got the field prepped. They finished that (last) Wednesday. I think it gives us a better surface."
It'll be a new team playing on a new field. The Panthers are hoping to turn the page from last season's finish and write a new ending this fall.