Central Illinois comes together for Washington High at semi-finals

By WEEK Reporter

November 24, 2013 Updated Nov 25, 2013 at 12:55 AM CDT

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Washington High School football fans came from all over Central Illinois came to Springfield Saturday for the IHSA 5A semi-final game against the Sacred Heart Griffin Cyclones.

"Washington Panthers! Washington Panthers!" chanted the thousands in the crowd.

A sea of orange filled the Sacred Heart Griffin stadium. Face paint, shakers, flags---all part of the Washington community celebration. It was all a Central Illinois community effort.

"All the other schools are in the student section, and they've been supporting us," said Washington Senior Cole Klein. "They've been sending us posters, cards, water and everything. It's been great to have something else to do instead of thinking about what's happened."

Most of the attending fans traveled more than an hour to attend the game.

"Nothing could have stopped me from being here," said Klein.

Not even Sunday's tornado, which cost Klein his home. However, Klein was not alone. Many others had been affected by the tornadoes and were still standing in the stands cheering.

Sacred Heart Griffin High School sent nine coach buses to Washington to pick up fans that had no car or transportation.

"It's been a really tough week, it feels great to just have the community up and have something to cheer for," said Washington Senior Ryan Uhlenhake.

Even though Washington high school lost the game to the Cyclones, those fans still picked up a "W."

"It's a win for the community," said Klein.

Uhlenhake said, "The support throughout the tornado--just helping families and friends--has just been great and really shows the spirit of Washington, and how strong we really are."

These fans prove that the hearts of Washington and Central Illinois are stronger than any EF4 tornado.

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