Perfect pursuit for Panthers

Bryan Veginski

Washington concluded an historic regular season Friday with a 35-0 shutout of Springfield.

After compiling a 7-0 Mid-Illini Conference mark, the Panthers moved to 2-0 against the Central State Eight Conference by scoring in every quarter on Senior Night at Babcook Field.

Colton Underwood hit pay dirt three times and the Washington (9-0) defense held the Senators to less than 150 yards of offense.

The Panthers’ perfect mark for nine game was the fourth time the feat was accomplished in school history and the first since 1993.

“These kids have been a part of history,” WCHS head coach Darrell Crouch said. “That’s a pretty big thing.”

On four runs plays on the game’s first possession, Washington covered 52 yards to take a lead it would not relinquish in the non-conference matchup.

Justin Riley carried the ball 15 yards on two carries before Colton Underwood rumbled 22 yards.

At the 10:32 mark of the first quarter, Underwood reached the end zone on a 14-yard burst.

The drive was set up by a nice Ryan Grebner kickoff return.

Springfield (6-3) managed only one double-digit gain on its first three series. 

The Senators were stationed at the Panther 25-yard line midway through the opening period before Eric Jaszarowski recovered a fumble.

On Springfield’s first possession of the second quarter, Connor Underwood made a diving interception to keep the guests from infiltrating the Washington red zone.

The Panthers then pieced together an 11-play drive, aided by a couple Senator offside penalties, that resulted in a Riley two-yard touchdown run.

Riley picked up 51 of the team’s 78 yards on nine carries.

Washington’s Robert Izaguirre made a key 17-yard reception from quarterback Isaac Fisher on a third down and nine from the Springfield 19.

Panthers Grant Dingledine and Grebner made defensive stops on separate Senator drives to keep the halftime margin at 14 points.

Colton Underwood recovered a fumble to stymie Springfield’s initial third-period series.

Riley made a reception and traversed 15 yards, then a personal foul was tacked on to place the ball inside the Senator 15.

Two plays later, Colton Underwood scored on an eight-yard run to make it 21-0 with 8:20 left in the third.

Dylan Newbury of Washington intercepted a pass on the ensuing possession to cause Springfield’s third turnover.

The Panthers went 51 yards in only 1:59 to up their advantage to 28-0.

Andrew Watson moved the chains with an 11-yard reception from backup QB Zach Little.

On the fourth play of the drive, Little hit Grebner for a 38-yard TD pass with 2:16 remaining in the quarter.

Another productive turn by the Washington offense that spanned the third and fourth periods culminated with the fifth TD of the night.

Underwood started the seven-play sequence with an 11-yard run and ended it with a nine-yard scamper across the goal line.

After an OK performance the previous week vs. East Peoria in a 10-0 victory, the Panthers wanted to end the regular year with a bang.

“There’s no doubts we were the better team,” Crouch said.

Colton Underwood produced 129 rushing yards, while Riley just missed the century mark.

The rainy, windy conditions limited both team’s passing games.

Washington picked off two different Springfield QBs, and no Senator running back reached 30 yards on the ground.

“We were worried about containing their QB,” said Crouch, who credited defensive coordinator Todd Stevens with forming a scheme that limited Springfield.

In week one, the Panthers beat Springfield Lanphier. The week-nine victory gave the squad a 4-0 mark in the two-year series with two of the Springfield public schools.

Next season, Central and Richwoods are Washington’s non-conference foes in the first two weeks.