Washington Panthers lifted up by community, opposing team - FOX 32 News Chicago

Washington Panthers lifted up by community, opposing team

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The people of Washington, Illinois got a chance to take their minds off the destruction dealt by last week's tornadoes. Their prized high-school football team had a big game on Sunday.

Although they lost, the Panthers' 2,000 fans who traveled to Springfield got what they hoped for. You wouldn't be able to tell from the cheers, but these football fans are from one of the towns devastated by the twisters.

"We lost our homes this week," Mike Schoney told FOX 32 News. "But the kids sucked it up said, ‘We got to go do what we got to do.' What community's doing down here has been awesome."

"No storm we can't ride - Panther pride!" was just one example of the spirit signs fans brought to the game against the Sacred Heart-Griffin Cyclones. There's nothing like a little football that can bring a community together.

Curtis Marshall brought a piece of his destroyed home with him to the game in Springfield.

"I found it intact. My son said grab it hold it up when we make a touchdown," Marshall said. "It just shows not even tornado going to keep us from winning a game."

Some of the players and coaches' homes were leveled in the storm. In a show of support, Sacred- Heart Griffin provided seven buses for Washington High School fans to travel. The stands swelled with Panther orange, as the community came in droves to support their boys.

Unfortunately, the Panthers lost 44-14.

"It was amazing," one Washington player said. "Our community has always been behind us. Just because a tragedy happened and a tornado came through – that didn't change at all. It brought everybody closer."

Finally, a bit of normalcy. Head Coach Darrel Crouch said they are simply overwhelmed by the support.

"For our boys, the times that we're at practice and the time we were out there today, is probably the only time we aren't thinking out everything," Crouch said. "From a therapeutic standpoint, one of the best things we could do was that."

Crouch went on to thank all the rival schools that reached out to provide the players warm meals - and even a place to shower - over the past week.

After the Saturday's game, Sacred Heart hosted Panther's fans for a dinner of pulled pork and sandwiches in the school.

FOX 32 News is so proud of the Washington Panthers and everyone involved in helping raise the spirit of the team and the spirit of the recovering town.

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