By Steve Robinson | November 16, 2013 - 10:12 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High, Washington HS

FootballWASHINGTON – For the second straight year, University High’s football team found itself faced with traveling to Washington to try to advance in the Illinois High School Playoffs. Last year, the two sides met to win a second round match, with the Pioneers on the receiving end of a 24-point loss. On Nov. 16, the result still wasn’t what Pioneers head coach Dusty Burk, his players or fans wanted, as the Panthers defeated the Pioneers, 41-7, in a Class 5A quarterfinal skirmish, the second half of which was played in a steady sideways rain.

Washington (12-0) jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead on a 6 yard touchdown by senior running back Casey Danley at 7:48 in the first quarter, followed by kicker Jake Miller’s extra point.

Washington Panthers footballThe teams opened the second quarter on that score but Panthers senior quarterback Colton Marshall’s 1 yd. keeper touchdown, followed by another Miller extra point, increased the Panthers’ lead 14-0.

Danley scored again on a 12-yard run, with 1:31 until halftime, followed by another Miller extra point, forcing the Pioneers to confront a 21-0 deficit going into the second half.

U-High Pioneers footballWeather would factor into the game as a driving rain began just before halftime, continuing through the second half. Washington would score again twice in the third quarter and once in the fourth quarter, going up 41-0.

The Panthers would keep U-High scoreless until the waning minutes of the contest, when Pioneers junior quarterback Arion Worthman engineered a drive which resulted in a 45-yard scoring pass to junior wide receiver Austin Welter, followed by senior kicker Luke Otto’s extra point, resulting in the final score.

By Steve Robinson | August 13, 2013 - 10:22 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, Washington HS

FootballWASHINGTON – Washington Community High School head football coach Darrell Crouch seemingly has two goals for his Panthers football squad as the 2013 season opens. Directly in front of them is their Aug. 30 debut game against Bloomington Central Catholic.

But he is also checking his rear view, recalling – again – making it only as far as the Illinois High School Association quarterfinals for the sixth time in the past eight seasons.

“We lost to Morris in a tough (quarterfinal) game (last year), but there’s a ton of people who would love to get to that (particular) game (at season’s end),” the ninth season head coach explained.

Last year, with a then-new quarterback, Washington, again scaled the playoff bracket in their class, upending Mid-Illini Conference rival Metamora and manhandling Normal University High before losing to Morris in the quarterfinals, to finish the season at 9-3.

The question becomes, Crouch said, will the 2013 team be able to say they got over the quarterfinal hump? So far, that’s as far as the Panthers have gotten in their last four out of five seasons.

But for now, as Crouch sees it, “(If) You don’t win week one, you don’t need to worry about (the rest of it), That first win (against Bloomington Central Catholic on the road Aug. 30) is what will get things going.”

Senior Colton Marshall will anchor the Panthers’ offense this season, his coach said. Joining him in the offensive unit will be some familiar players: Senior linemen Brogan Brownfield and Andrew Holderness at tight end; Senior Nathan Baker and junior Jake Godinez will be competing to be the team’s center; Seniors Seth Mordhorst, Brownfield, Nick Sievers, and junior Gavin Dingledine will be part of a retooled offensive front line opponents will face this season. Of this grouping, Brownfield is the only man to have played when the 2012 season opened.

Washington Panthers footballMarshall will be passing to a receiving corps that includes senior wide receiver Hayden Bodine, Casey Danley, Tanner Smith, and Austin Strong; And juniors Ganan Hahn and Brock Hopp. It’s not just passing Marshall will have as an option, as he’ll have a backfield full of talent to hand off to, including senior running back Chris Friend; Senior fullback Mason Chockley; Senior running back Austin Strong; senior Jake Clark, and senior fullback Kyle Stratton.

Senior linebacker Kevin Scott, senior defensive back Danley; Bodine; Friend, Strong, and Chockley will all play significant roles on defense, as well.

The defensive line will see new faces, including Holderness; Seniors Nick Sievers; Kyle Stratton, and Cameron Schone, Dean Wagler, and Godinez; And junior linebacker Bryson Miller.

“The good news is we have a ton of depth on our D-line,” Crouch said. He sees junior wide receiver Jake Miller kicking field goals and Danley serving as the Panthers’ punter.

Football teams, and his in particular, is at a disadvantage compared to other sports “because baseball and basketball players are out there all summer long, but we won’t what we’ve got out there until the 30th,” Crouch said.

Squib Kicks: Washington will host Pekin on Sept. 27 ….”Senior Night” for the Panthers will be Sept. 6 when LsSalle-Peru visits in a non-conference showdown….Washington will host Pekin on Sept. 27…..Since becoming head coach in 2005, Crouch’s Panthers teams have had a record of 59-28.

By Steve Robinson | November 4, 2012 - 10:19 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High, Washington HS

WASHINGTON – University High’s successful season needed to get past the second round of the Illinois High School Association playoffs Friday in order for the Pioneers to reach one step beyond how far the team advanced in 2011. But, like they had done last year, the 2012 Pioneers exited the playoffs after a second round loss, 30-6, to the Washington Panthers at Babcook Field.

Washington (9-2), members of the Mid-Illini Conference, got on the board first following a scoreless first quarter, thanks to a drive that began with a 38-yard Panthers punt return by junior wide receiver Austin Strong. His return put the ball on U-High’s 4-yard line. Four plays later, a 22-yard field goal by senior kicker J. D. Eddy gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead with 9:27 left in the second quarter.

The Panthers would own a 10-0 lead at halftime, thanks to a trick play at the quarter’s 3:52 mark that began with senior quarterback Luke Ludolph pitching the ball to senior running back Austin Herrell. Herrell rolled right and suddenly threw an 11-yard touchdown strike to junior wide receiver Hayden Bodine, followed by Eddy’s extra point.

U-High (10-1) won the pre-game coin toss, but deferred receiving the ball until the second half, but quickly had to punt to Washington. The Panthers quickly took advantage of the situation with a 65 yard pass from Ludolph to senior wide receiver Bryce Wright, with 9:58 left in the third quarter. U-High junior defensive back Noah Larsen got a hand on Eddy’s extra point try, blocking it, but the Panthers increased their lead, 16-0.

Washington increased their lead to 24-0 on an 8-yard scoring run by Herrell, followed by a successful two-point pass from Ludolph to Bodine. The score capped a 14-play 70-yard drive, the longest of the night for the Panthers. Washington carried that lead into the fourth quarter.

Ludolph connected with senior tight end Kyle Clark for Washington’s last points of the night, a three yard touchdown with 7:38 left in the contest. The Panthers tried another two-point play following the score, but it was incomplete.

U-High’s lone score came on the ensuing possession, as junior running back Joe Johnson dashed into the end zone from 36 yards out, with 5:19 left, but missed the extra point. Johnson was the Pioneers’ leading rusher, racking up 39 yards in eight carries.

Herrell led Washington’s rushing effort with 26 carries for 87 yards. Ludolph was 9-for-20 passing for 137 yards and no interceptions. U-High sophomore quarterback Arion Worthman ended the night 12-for-21 for 87 yards and one interception.

“I don’t think the score is indicative of how close these two teams are,” said Pioneers head coach Dusty Burk in an on-field meeting with reporters after the game. “I thought the guys played with a lot of heart and I’m proud of this team. They battled and they didn’t give up. As a whole, I think it’s a season these guys can be very proud of.”

“We were pretty prepared on the offensive side,” explained Washington head coach Darrell Crouch, a former player at both Normal Community High School and Illinois State University. “I think it was just a matter of U-High wearing down a little bit, and we found some places where we could do some things, too.”

By Steve Robinson | August 18, 2010 - 10:22 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, Washington HS

FootballWASHINGTON – For Washington Community High School’s football team, the goal at the beginning of the 2010 remains as it has since head coach Darrell Crouch took the program over in 2005: Win an IHSA championship. Under Crouch, the Panthers have made the playoffs three seasons running.

The Panthers went undefeated in the regular season, entering the 2009 playoffs at 9-0, advancing to beat Rich East and Sterling in the opening two rounds of the IHSA playoffs before being handed a third-round 42-7 upset by Joliet Catholic Academy. Going into his sixth season at Washington, Crouch has a 34-12 record and wants to see the Class of 2011 join the previous three senior classes in getting to State Finals in November.

In the last few seasons, the Panthers had been playing Springfield schools to round out a non-conference section in the schedule. But with the contract between Washington and Springfield completed at the end of last season, the Panthers will play a pair of Peoria schools to begin this season before diving into their Mid-Illini Conference schedule.

Washington visits Peoria High Aug. 27, and Richwoods Sept. 3. In fact, Washington plays three road games before their first home game in a brand new facility. The third away game is at East Peoria Sept. 10. Dunlap is the first guest at Washington’s new football complex on Sept. 17, for a 7:30p.m. contest.

And Crouch asks a very serious question, with what might be a seemingly obvious answer: “What (goal) do you think has been on Metamora’s blackboard since week two of the ’09 season?” The answer, of course, is beat Washington. But with the manpower Crouch has coming this season, the battle for supremacy in the M-I will remain a tough one.

Washington Panthers footballPosition-By-Position: Going through the positions, Crouch has upperclassmen on the squad who have been taught his system of play for all four of their high school years, now, and will graduate in the spring. Senior Isaac Fisher will take the controls under center when the season opens against the Lions. He became the Panthers’ starter after Drew Schlink was hurt, leaving Fisher to lead the team the remainder of the season. “He’s a running threat, he can run the option, (and) he can throw the ball,” Crouch said. Junior Zach Little will serve as Fisher’s backup, playing tight end, and defensive end.

As for the receiving corps Fisher will be throwing to, Crouch called them “a good group,” adding the thought that, “I think our skills are, at least, as good as if not better than they were last year.”

Fisher will be looking for senior Ryan Grebner, junior Dakota Bullard, Deshon Sinclair, and Cameron Johnson for completion help. Johnson is returning to the game after sitting out of football for a year, Crouch said.

Fisher will also have a selection of tight ends to throw to, keeping defenders busy, including Little, Brad Kuchenbecker, and Justin Klemm. Crouch said these three players can be “rotated between defense and offense” when need be, and if the Panthers opt to use four wideouts, he will pull the tight ends off the field.

Washington could audition some sophomore receivers for varsity games, too. Specifically, Crouch could rotate Jason McCoy and Brice Wright into game action, too.

Cameron Johnson will serve the Panthers’ punter/kicker. “It’s pretty tough to try to replace (2010 Washington grad) Toni Ramadani,” Crouch said. “But when you talk about making sure we can make extra points and field goals from 30 yards on in, Cameron Johnson looked capable. He is doing real well.”

At linebacker, Connor Underwood can play in any of the slots in the defensive backfield, Crouch said. Underwood will likely be joined by junior Charlie Ludolph, senior Eric Jaszarowski, Matt Friend, Sinclair, and Klemm.

As for playing the Pekin Dragons, Crouch said, “You never know what’s going to happen. It’s tough to tell what Pekin will be like from last year to this year. I think that our conference is going to be tougher this year.” Washington visits the Dragons Sept. 24 at 7:30p.m.

But Crouch admits two position categories concern him because they need shoring up: Offensive line, and defensive line, specifically at the end position.

Crouch said they are “the two most unproven areas” Washington has. On the offensive line, only Friend and Doug Schrock are the only seniors on the line. Juniors Kiel Dosset and Mike Ernst are on the offensive line this season, with Dosset serving as center. Jacob Cox is in competition for a tackle slot.

By Steve Robinson | December 15, 2009 - 10:57 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, U-High, Washington HS

BasketballNORMAL – The way Washington Community High head coach Kevin Brown saw things after his team’s performance at Normal University High Tuesday night, he knew going into the season he had a young team needing to mature.

The Panthers’ 55-36 victory over the Pioneers Tuesday night seemed to provide proof of the first steps Brown’s team may have taken to reach that maturity.

Normal U-High (4-5) jumped out to a fast 8-2 lead on baskets by Connor Brown, Eric Robb, and Mitch Styczynski. U-High ended the quarter on a 6-0 tear, thanks to a deuce each from Brady Knapp and Styczynski, and a pair of free throws by Kyle Morris, giving the Pioneers a 17-13 lead after one quarter.

The Pioneers continued that stretch with a three by Brown at 7:16 of the second quarter, extending the hosts’ lead 20-13.

At that point, U-High took a timeout, but it seemed it was the Panthers’ who began their growth lesson. Brown told them as they broke their huddle from that timeout, “you can do this!”

Washington High SchoolFrom that point, the Panthers went on a 10-0 run with deuces from Ben Ryan and Robert Izaguirre, a pair of free throws by Connor Underwood, a basket/single foul shot combo from Izaguirre, all topped off with a trey by Ryan Grebner, giving Washington a 23-20 lead with 3:29 until halftime. It was a lead Washington would not surrender. They managed to outscore U-High 19-6 in the second quarter and hold a 32-23 lead at halftime.

Washington (5-2) opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run – a pair of threes by Mark Roth followed by one from Grebner, to go up 41-25, before U-High’s Brown scored a trey of his own to stop the barrage, cutting Washington’s lead, 41-28. Brown would score a second three toward the end of the quarter, but Washington entered the fourth quarter with a 48-31 lead.

Washington outscored U-High 7-5 in the fourth quarter. The Washington fans in attendance gave their team a standing ovation as the final seconds ticked away.

“We were on the road in a tough environment, and we need to get tough and grow up,” the veteran Panthers coach told reporters after the game. “I told them that we needed to come out fighting and get aggressive. I saw we were passive (in the first quarter), but not bad – a typical young team on the road. We have talked a lot about being a team, and I thought that, from that point on, we really pulled together and fought through it.”

U-HighBrown said his team had two game plans – a primary attack and, if that started to falter, a secondary plan. He said the goal was to get U-High to speed up its game against their will.

Washington’s physical play, starting in the second quarter, “caught up to us,” admitted U-High head coach Bob Fitzgerald. “Kevin’s kids do a great job of getting up and pressuring the basketball, and dictating where you go on the offensive end.

“With about two minutes left in the first quarter, they picked up (their game) and we didn’t necessarily adjust as well as we should have.”