Washington is hopeful its most successful regular season in the last 14 years carries over to the postseason.

Washington is hopeful its most successful regular season in the last 14 years carries over to the postseason.

The Panthers won their seventh consecutive game Friday, 28-27, over Springfield at Memorial Stadium.

The Washington (8-1) victory total prior to the Illinois High School Association playoffs is its highest since 1994.

The Panthers were rewarded with a No. 2 seed in a lower bracket split in half.

Washington will host East Peoria (5-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Babcook Field in the first round in Class 5A.

“We’re happy to have an 8-1 season and we hope to keep that rolling in the playoffs,”
WCHS head coach Darrell Crouch said.

The Panther running game was potent as three players — quarterback Drew Schlink, Justin Riley and Colton Underwood — all surpassed 100 yards.

It was a back-and-forth game, with Washington coming from behind in the second half for the second week in a row.

Riley’s 80-yard touchdown run in the first quarter were the lone Panther points in the first half as the guests trailed 13-7.

Schlink ran 59 yards to pay dirt to put the Panthers back on top in the third period.

The game was tied at 21 later in the third as Schlink motored 33 yards for a TD.

Washington was head 28-21 after Schlink’s 67-yard burst to the end zone.

Panther placekicker Tony Ramadani finished 4-for-4 on extra points, while the Senators went 1-for-2 on point-after tries before going for two points after their last couple scores.

The last stop on a Springfield (7-2) two-point run attempt was the difference.

Washington did not complete a pass, but did not need as effectively as it ran the ball.

The Panthers were behind for the fifth game in a row, but did not surrender.

“That says a lot about those kids,” said Crouch about the squad’s ability to come back from a slow start.

Springfield was 7-0 before losing its final two games. Like Washington in the Mid-Illini Conference, the Senators were second in the Central State Eight Conference.

“It was a good test for us in that way,” said Crouch of the playoff primer. 

Playoff fever: With just eight miles separating the schools, there should be a raucous crowd on hand for the rematch of Mid-Illini rivals.

“We need to come out and put two good halves together,” Crouch said.

Something has to give when East Peoria and Washington meet to open the playoffs.

The Panthers are 4-0 at home in their best regular season since  1994.

The Raiders have been road warriors, winning three of their four away contests.

Washington scored twice in the final 4:33 to overcome East Peoria Oct. 17, 27-23, at Corwin Clatt Field in the M-I finale.

The win landed second place for the Panthers and left the Raiders in a third-place league tie.

“I’m sure that’s the rematch they wanted,” Crouch said. “I’m sure they’re pumped up.”

One of the high points of the M-I meeting was the visitors digging in and holding East Peoria to three field goals.

The Raiders’ last victory over Washington was in 2003.

“I’m sure they’ll throw everything at us,” said Crouch of the Raiders, who are appearing in the playoffs for just the second time in school history.

Washington, which is already without Chase Catton for the rest of the season, is seeking good injury reports on other key players.

The Panthers were without Cody Meeks and Bobby Miller against Springfield and Dalton Ruzicka left during the week-nine contest.

The East Peoria-Washington winner faces either Dunlap or Woodruff next week in the second round.