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The Washington Panthers football team dispatched one traditional, Catholic program, state power to the sidelines in the first round of the Class 6A IHSA state playoffs Friday, shutting out Providence Catholic, 35-0, on our Super Nutrition Red Zone Game of the Week. Now, the 10-0 Panthers look to take out another Catholic football juggernaut in Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin, Saturday afternoon at 1 O’clock on our Red Zone game of the week.
If you’re in to past records, Providence Catholic is a 10-time state football champ, while this week’s opponent, Sacred Heart Griffin has won 5 – all in the past 13 years under legendary head coach, Ken Leonard. Leonard, in his 35th year as HFC at SHG, became the state’s all-time winningest coach this fall, when his Cyclones defeated his son’s Rochester team back in September. Ken Leonard’s SHG teams have now won an amazing 379 games for him.
Of course, you don’t play tradition or a program’s previous records. Washington proved that Friday night in whipping the Celtics, 35-0, on a misty evening at Babcook Field. Washington’s all-time leading scorer, running back Sam Walter ran for two more touchdowns, and quarterback Caleb Fisher connected on 11 of his 16 passes, running and throwing for a touchdown in typically efficient form. The defense, the best unit in the area all season, just did what it does, dominate and terrorize opposing offenses.
This Saturday’s matchup will surely bring back vivid memories of five years ago when SHG and Washington met in the Class 5A semifinal. Washington’s great team that year, that featured Chris Friend, Casey Danley, Randy Meneweather, Mason Chockley and many others, lost on that blustery Saturday in the “Tornado” game, 44-14. It was just six days after the horrific tornado ripped through Washington the previous Sunday morning. It was an emotional week for a team whose school was closed with dozens of homes demolished. The team was displaced by the storm and had to find fields just to practice on, including Illinois State University and Eureka University.
Our Tom Meredith was sideline reporting for the Red Zone during that semifinal and captured these pics. I’ll always remember that week for the way the state rallied around Washington and that game for the generous hospitality shown to the Washington team and fans by Sacred Heart Griffin that day. We’re hoping for a better outcome Saturday at 1 pm. Hear the pregame show featuring my interview with Panthers HFC Darrell Crouch, and analysis from former Illini starting lineman Tony Johnson, beginning at 12:30 pm.