The Washington football team wants to play deep into November this season.



With plenty of players left who have been part of a winning formula in the past, the ingredients are there for a postseason run.



The Panthers were 6-4 a year ago and 5-2 in the Mid-Illini Conference, which tied two others for second place. Washington made its fourth consecutive playoff appearance.


The Washington football team wants to play deep into November this season.

With plenty of players left who have been part of a winning formula in the past, the ingredients are there for a postseason run.

The Panthers were 6-4 a year ago and 5-2 in the Mid-Illini Conference, which tied two others for second place. Washington made its fourth consecutive playoff appearance.

The boys are ready to go. The season begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday vs. Central. Senior Night will be celebrated for the players and cheerleaders.

“We feel like we have everything we need to play right now,” WCHS head coach Darrell Crouch said last week.

Six starters are back on both sides of the ball.

At quarterback, senior Isaac Fisher will start for the third year. He holds a slew of single season and career passing records.

In 2010, Fisher threw for 1,851 yards and 18 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.

Fisher, twice a first-team all-M-I honoree, is receiving college interest from a variety of programs after throwing at various campuses.

His backup is junior Dominic Carrol, who also is a wide receiver on offense.

Colton Marshall, a sophomore, took a lot of summer snaps at QB.

Fisher’s top returning receiving target is senior Dakota Bullard, who hauled in 25 catches for 272 yards and a pair of TDs.

Bullard is the only player back who had more than two receptions, but there are ample options to which Fisher can go.

Senior Jordan Broadstone and juniors Bryce Wright, Kyle Knoblauch, Andy Rettke, Brent Brown and Colton Murray are among the candidates to haul in passes.

First-team all-conference pick Ryan Grebner, who rose to the single season No. 2 slots all-time in receptions (44) and yards (684) graduated. Tight end Zach Little elected not to come out for the sport after making 31 grabs as a junior.
 
The backfield also is looking for players to emerge after Dylan Reel decided to focus on wrestling after a first-team all-league junior season in which he totaled 1,127 rushing yards and 18 TDs.

Senior Kyle Zimmerman and juniors Austin Reel, Austin Harrell and Brown all could get carries.

In front of them in fullback roles are players like senior Justin Robinson, junior Anthony DiMito and Chris Friend, a sophomore.

Crouch said Washington possesses more depth at tailback and receiver than it has had for a while.

He said the offensive line is probably the biggest in his seven-year tenure at the school.

Junior Zach Skulte is projected as the center. Senior Keil Dossett and junior Brad Kuchenbecker are guards. At tackle slots are senior Mike Ernst and Brock Hoover, a junior. That quintet averages 6-foot-1 and 237 pounds.

Ernst garnered second-team all-league merit last season. His college stock rose when he was named the top lineman at the Illinois State University team camp.

Junior tackle Austin Miller and senior guard James Norlin give the Panthers a couple more options.

Kyle Clark, a junior, is battling senior Josh Hack for the tight-end slot, with juniors West Pyle and Evan Cooper in the mix.

Crouch said the Panthers hope to run the ball and throw it because they want to, not out of necessity.

On the defensive line, junior Chris Sexton and Kuchenbecker are the ends. Clark and Robinson also are capable of handling that assignment. Kuchenbecker had four sacks as a sophomore.

Junior Jake Moline is a defensive tackle and classmate Josh Fager a nose guard.

Senior Mason Wright and Scott Houseworth, a junior, also are D-line options.

The linebacking core consists of senior Charlie Ludolph, junior Louis Faivre and Friend.

Harrell is the strong safety and junior J.D. Eddy also is a possibility there.

Fisher, with seven career interceptions in three seasons in the secondary, is the free safety. Brown and senior Steve Smith also could play that position.

Cornerbacks include: Bullard, Zimmerman, Cooper and Carrol.

Among the defensive losses to graduation were all-state linebacker Connor Underwood (101 tackles, five sacks) and second-team all-M-I defensive lineman Dan Massengill (42 tackles, nine for loss).

Fisher, Reel, Friend and Eddy all could have some stake in special teams with punting and kicking (field goals/extra points and kickoffs).

The squad is looking for a player who can put the ball in the end zone on kickoffs.

Friend and Eddy both went to the Dragon’s Dome in the offseason for some kicking work.

“Trying to improve the kicking game from last year will be one of our goals,” said Crouch.

Metamora is the defending conference champion. But the Redbirds, who went 7-0, were pressed by the Panthers and Morton last season.

That trio, plus Dunlap, was hit hard by personnel losses. How well last year’s upper-division finishers fill those holes will likely determine this year’s standings.

Washington is optimistic about the season with what has transpired thus far.

It started with high attendance for the summer schedule from key players.

“The team has gelled together pretty good,” Crouch said. “It’s a matter of how we put things together.”

The 7-on-7 was a huge success, the coach reported, with 45 lineman teams and 35 in the passing segment.

The Hog Roast, with a skills section, and 12th Man golf outing also were well-organized.

Crouch thanked all the volunteers who make events like that happen, adding they are what makes Washington a great place to be.

Aaron Davis, Rob Garcia and Gary Beard are new coaches this year.

Crouch credited the entire staff, with its experience and knowledge, for all the things it can do.

Washington also has been in the PantherPlex since the beginning of the ’11 campaign, which has helped tremendously in day-to-day activities.

The Panthers open with three consecutive home games. Richwoods and East Peoria follow the Lions to Babcook Field.