The tornado that ripped through Washington, Illinois last month did considerable damage, but the town's high school football team has inspired the small community. Even as the tornado was leaving destruction in its wake, the WHS Panthers were preparing to play in the state semi-finals, their first play-off game since 1985. During the storm, around 1,000 homes were either destroyed or damaged. 10 Varsity players lost their homes in the storm as well. But instead of emerging from the rubble with an air of defeat, the players pushed through and helped the town begin its cleanup. Not only has the storm brought the town of Washington together in their recovery efforts, it stirred the hearts of rival football teams as well. The Normal University High School football team, whom the Panthers defeated the day before the storm, responded with an offer to bring lunch to the Panthers as well as do their laundry.
Fast forward six days later. Despite the events of the week before, many townspeople were determined to put their clean-up on hold to in order to support their Panthers as they traveled to Springfield for the game. And while the Panthers didn't end up winning the game, the did win a lot of hearts. This was especially evident as the players were returning home. Just outside town, firetrucks and ambulances from all over the Central Illinois area were lined up with flashing lights and sirens blaring, ready to escort the team back to town. Sometimes it's not about winning games.