Washington, Ill. football team prepares for Saturday playoffs - KMSP-TV

Washington football team prepares for emotional playoff game

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Associated Press) -

After a deadly tornado ripped through their central Illinois city, many in Washington may struggle to fend off a sense of defeat. But that's not a feeling the unbeaten local high school football team has had this season, and Panther fans are rallying around it.

Washington High School's Panthers play Sacred Heart-Griffin on Saturday in a state semifinal in Springfield. Both teams are 12-0, and never mind that Sacred Heart's mascot is the Cyclones.

For many in 16,000-resident Washington, the Panthers' chase for its first trip to a state championship game in 28 years is a welcomed respite from rebuilding the city scarred by Sunday's tornado that killed one person and destroyed or damaged more than 1,000 homes.

The houses destroyed included those of the Panthers' quarterback and several teammates.

But the tornados could not wipe out the spirit of sportsmanship.

Sacred Heart-Griffin reached out to help Washington's team and fans make it to the big game. The school has chartered six buses for Washington residents whose cars were destroyed in the tornado and the Springfield moms are putting together 1,500 pre-and post-game meals for Washington.

FOX 32 News contributed to this report.

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