WASHINGTON, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) – -The good news is Washington has 115 players out for football with a big freshman class this fall.

The bad news only two of them are returning varsity starters. Coach Darrell Crouch thinks it may be the youngest team he’s had in his 17 years at Washington.

He says many of his upperclassmen played last year but didn’t get significant minutes on the field.

“It will be a bigger challenge for a lot of those guys,” said Crouch. “They are stepping into a whole new Friday Night Lights when you’re setting the tone. You’re not coming in to clean up (games).”

One of those 2021 backups is Jake Stewart. The three-sport athlete, who helped the baseball team to a third place finish at state in June, is Washington’s starting quarterback.

“I have to step up as a leader. Lead these guys, show them how it’s done,” Stewart said. “It’s Washington football and keep that legacy going.”

The Panthers are hoping their somewhat inexperienced players can learn the ropes quickly and help Washington earn a 15th consecutive playoff appearance.

“After last year, we had a lot of starters who were seniors. We only have two (starters) coming back,” said senior receiver Seth Carbaugh. “A lot of young guys will have to step up and have a good year for us.”

Washington opens the season at home against Highland on Aug. 26.