On Saturday, the Washington, Ill. community came together to cheer on their high school’s football team, after a week of heartache and tragedy. They lost 44-14, but as NBC 5’s Regina Waldroup reports, it was an emotional end to a week they'll never forget.
Nearly one week after a tornado tore through Washington, Ill., hundreds of residents left the devastation behind and headed to Springfield to support the town's undefeated high school football team.
"A lot of people told us, 'Win or lose, we're going to be behind you guys,'" said linebacker for the Washington Community High School Panthers Chris Friend.
It's been a tough few days for these players after their practices, their lives and their homes were disrupted by a natural disaster, but they refused to let that stop them.
Team members were out in the community all week, helping their neighbors pick up the pieces left behind from the devastating tornado. But now, at least for a moment, they can concentrate on football.
"It's been a tough week," said Washington resident Hanna Kulavic. "They had a lot of pressure on them. We're just proud of all of them."
Their goal was to make it to the state finals, something the Panthers hadn't done in 28 years, but they needed to beat the Sacred Heart Cyclones. The Panthers were behind for most of the game. They kept fighting, but it wasn't enough to pull out a win. The Cyclones won 44 to 14.
"I'm proud of these guys," said coach Darrell Crouch. "I love these guys like I love my son."
"They put all their heart into it," said Washington resident Paul Kale.
For some of the players, it was the final football game of their high school career.
"I feel,like I wanna go back out there and play again," said linebacker Mason Chockley, "Try to change it."
"I'll never play a football again," said running back Casey Danley. "It was a heck of a time with these just last four years."
It was an emotional ending to a game and a week that this team and Washington won't soon forget.
"We take home that we'll rebuild and we'll be stronger than we were before," said resident Aaron Boyles.