If the Washington High School football team is to get back to the state championship game, it faces challenges of youth, a new coaching regime, and fact that such a feat is just downright hard.
But the Panthers don’t just want to get back to the championship game.
They want to win it.
“We have great talent, we have great athletes, great kids, and we're going to be competitive. We're going to make some noise in the NIC,” said Head Coach Jay Johnson, who takes over the reigns for Atwon Jones after holding the title of assistant coach a season ago.
It’s easy to see why teams may look past the Panthers this season. The team returns a handful of starters on each side of the football, but lost key contributors like Gehrig Dieter, who set state records for receiving, and David Perkins, a force on both sides of the ball who has gone on to Ohio State.
“You can't really replace those players, because they were great players in their own right,” said Johnson. “But we still have great players here. My advice to them is to step up and make this their time. They enjoyed the advantages of having them around, they learned from them, they're getting exposure from them, so now it's their turn to step up and reap some of the benefits that they brought.”
One of those benefits is the experience of a state title run, and with it, the bitter feeling of losing.
“We took a whole lot from that. It was a great experience for the program as a whole,” Johnson explained. “We had a lot of young kids that got the opportunity to experience that first-hand. And that goes a long way for your program in the future.”
Washington will travel to Concord to start the 2012 season on August 17th.