How an annual fundraiser became so much more for Washington high school football

Coaches and players play roles in producing the Washington football press guide

Steve Stein
Peoria Journal Star
The Washington Panther Press Guide started in 2007 and has continued through 2022. A group of 12th Man members put together the annual guide with local photographer Rich Burk.

WASHINGTON — It takes a team effort to put together the Washington football team's press guide each season.

Coaches and players are involved. So are several members of the 12th Man booster club's executive committee. All as volunteers.

The slick media guide, which has the look and feel of one from a college football team, is a fundraiser for the non-profit 12th Man organization.

"But the press guide actually began (in 2007) to help our players who were being recruited by colleges," said Washington coach Darrell Crouch. "We wanted to give college coaches something more than a piece of paper (with team rosters) when they came to our games."

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"Yes, college coaches were the motivation for the book," said Todd Stevens, a Washington assistant coach for 27 seasons including 22 as defensive coordinator who works with assistant coach Dan Walter in putting together the Washington football team records that appear in the press guide.

Selling the press guide

About 150-200 copies of the press guide are printed each season. They go to the team's seniors and some 12th Man members and are sold to the public for $2 each. They're available at Washington football home games at Babcook Field.

The press guide is normally done in time for the first Washington football home game. This year, the press guide was done in time for the Inside Panther Night intra-squad scrimmage.

Washington players are deeply involved in the production of the press guide.

The team's seniors select the front page cover theme because the seniors are featured on the cover. This year's theme is muscle cars, with eight seniors and three classic cars pictured.

Previous years' cover photos have been shot at places like the Peoria Air National Guard Base at the General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport and Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby.

Players also sell ads for the press guide.

"We hand-picked 10 team leaders, juniors and seniors, we thought would best represent our team out in the community," said Washington assistant coach Rob Garcia, who organized the ad-selling effort for the first time this year.

"We met at the end of June," Garcia said. "I divvied up the businesses for the players to call on over the next two weeks and sent them out in five groups of two, each with about 20 businesses. None of the boys had ever done this before. They did a great job.

"It was an educational experience for them. I'm sure they learned people skills and public speaking skills selling those ads."

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The players who sold ads were Eli Baer, Brayson Barth, Sam Blackburn, Tyler Brown, Mitch Coughlin, Jace Harlan, Kainon McQueary, Madden Mendoza, Eli Papis and Jake Stewart.

Players sold press guide ads ranging in price from $100 for a business card ad to $750 for a full-page ad (ads included a 12th Man membership on one of four levels) and 12th Man memberships.

Thirty-eight ads — the most ever — plus 12th Man memberships were sold from the effort, raising $17,600, the most in press guide history.

Just six ads were sold for the inaugural press guide in 2007. The previous best for ads was 30 ads in the 2019 press guide. No press guide was published in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and only nine ads were sold in 2021.

Shown from left to right are Rob Garcia, Todd Stevens, Darrell Crouch, John Fisher and Joe Bullard, the group of 12th Man members who put together the annual Washington Panthers Media Guide.

How the press guide is put together

John Fisher, father of ex-Washington quarterbacks Austin, Isaac and Caleb Fisher and a Washington chain gang member for nine seasons, is in the charge of "the look of the press guide, pagination and processing ads, and making sure everything is done on time," he said.

GT Services in Tremont prints the press guide. Photos in the press guide are provided by Richard Burk.

This year's press guide includes photos and rosters of Washington's freshman, sophomore and varsity football teams, information on the 12th Man and a list of members, a list of ex-Washington football players now playing college football, lists of Washington administrators and coaches, biographies and photos of the Washington football coaching staff, a list of Washington Hall of Fame inductees, and the top five in several Washington football season and career statistical categories from the 1923 to 2021 seasons.

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The records portion of the press guide will soon have a new look. "We're going to rotate the categories starting next season," Stevens said.

Next season's press guide should be a memorable one. It will be the 100th season of Washington football, the 40th anniversary of the 12th Man organization, and the 19th and final season that Crouch will coach the Panthers.

He'll be retiring as a Washington driver's education teacher and the Washington football coach at the end of the 2023-24 school year.

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.

Washington football by the numbers

Here are some of the career leaders and notes from the guide:

  • Passing yards: Isaac Fisher, 5,186 from 2008-11.
  • Rushing yards: Randy Meneweather, 2,835 from 2013-15.
  • Receiving yards: Dakota Bullard, 1,055 from 2009-11.
  • Pass receptions: Woody Wilson, 77 from 1975-77.
  • Solo tackles: Chris Friend, 202 from 2010-13.
  • Sacks: Former Illinois State and NFL player turned reality TV star Colton Underwood leads Washington in career sacks (32 from 2006-09) and season sacks (18 in 2008).
  • Double duty: When Isaac Fisher wasn't completing passes, he was intercepting them. Besides being the all-time Washington leader in career passing yards, he's tied with Garrett Frank at the top of the list of career pass interceptions with 10 (Frank played from 2013-16).