Boys sit alone atop Mid-Illini

Bryan Veginski
Swarming defense: Washington seniors Randy Bertelsen, No. 58, and Grant Dingledine stop an East Peoria player Friday during the first quarter. A 10-0 home win capped a perfect Mid-Illini Conference season for the Panthers, who won their first title since 1994.

The Washington football team finished off its first Mid-Illini Conference outright title in 15 years in grand fashion Friday.

The Panthers recorded their first shutout of the season, 10-0, over playoff-bound East Peoria at Babcook Field.

Washington (8-0, 7-0) scored all of its points in a sequence of 2:40 in the second quarter, then turned away every Raider drive thereafter to stay unbeaten.

Only two league foes, Canton and Pekin, have mustered double-figure points against the Panthers thus far.

“The defense played well,” WCHS head coach Darrell Crouch said.

In a possession that consumed 7:21 off the clock and spanned the first and second quarters, Washington generated the game’s first points.

Toni Ramadani booted a 37-yard field goal with 10:09 left in the first half for a 3-0 advantage.

Key plays during the series were: a Dylan Newbury 43-yard reception from quarterback Isaac Fisher, a Robert Izaguirre 16-yard catch on third down and 13 and Fisher’s 10-yard scramble on third and eight.

Panthers Colton Underwood and Marquise Hartl combined for a sack to get the ball back for the offense after an East Peoria three-and-out.

In only three plays, Washington increased its margin to 10-0.

Underwood gained 19 yards on two carries before a Robert Izaguirre 24-yard touchdown reception.

The TD pass by the sophomore Fisher was his 16th, setting a school record in a single season.

He broke the 1986 mark of Brad Fuller, the QB on the ’85 Panther state champion team. 

Washington gave up just one first down in the first half until a 16-yard completion at the second-period horn.

First-down gains by Izaguirre (reception) and Underwood (run) late in the third quarter got the hosts near the Raider red zone before an interception reversed the momentum.

But big plays by Panther defenders on consecutive EP drives kept the shutout intact.

Ryan Grebner defended a pass play well to eventually force a punt.

Dan Massengill’s five-yard sack put the Raiders in a third down and long situation.

Washington, ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press Class 5A state poll last week, limited East Peoria to two runs longer than seven yards.

Fisher was 7-of-14 for 99 yards before leaving with a hyperextended left elbow he suffered while trying to make a tackle.

Crouch said Monday Fisher likely will play QB this week.

Zach Little relieved him and completed two passes for 23 yards.

Underwood was the lone ball carrier with more than 70 yards.

Izaguirre made four receptions for 54 yards to pace the Panthers.

Washington’s 10 points were a season-low figure by 18.

“We should put up more than 10 points,” Crouch said.

He credited the Raiders’ plan. EP head coach Doug Martin said it was the best defensive effort in his four years at the helm.

The ’94 Panther M-I championship team went 6-0. That team allowed only one conference opponent, Limestone, to reach double figures.

Pursuing perfection: Washington tries to polish off an unbeaten regular season Friday vs. Springfield (6-2) on Senior Night.

The Senators’s losses this fall came to the Central State Eight Conference’s champion and runner-up, Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin and Chatham Glenwood, respectively.

In ’08, the teams delivered a week-nine classic, with the Panthers nipping then-7-1 Springfield, 28-27.

Postseason: Playoff pairings will be announced Saturday night by the Illinois High School Association.

Washington should know its first-round opponent by 8:30 p.m.

The day and time of the game will be determined by Monday afternoon.

The Panthers’ playoff appearance is their third straight.