Editors note: This is the third in a six-part series previewing the football teams in the Pekin Daily Times coverage area.

After reaching the IHSA Class 5A state quarterfinals for eight straight seasons, the Washington Community High School football team is gearing up for another deep playoff run.

“It’s a pretty lofty goal to try to play in November,” head coach Darrell Crouch said. “I think we have a tough conference that we play in. We’ve been close twice, so we’ll see. This group still has a lot of work to go just to compete for the conference championship. We have got to get better at a number of positions, stay healthy and have a fast learning curve.”

The Panthers, who lost eight total starters, spent their first week of practice going through the motions.

“They definitely know what our expectations are because in the summer we’re just trying to teach some things. Now we’re trying to get prepped for Week 1,” Crouch said.

Crouch said the biggest loss overall for his team was leadership, calling graduated-senior Isaac Teubel a “top-5 captain” in Washington history.

Four-year starter Garrett Frank has the chance to step into a leadership role this season.

“You just see him in action everyday. The summer stuff he’s at all the time,” Crouch said. “He’s a guy that did what we asked him and is a two-sport athlete, so those are pluses that those guys see. He’s not late for practice, he’s always pretty much up tempo and upbeat and has no issues off the field ever.”

Trying to fill the big shoes of former running back Randy Meneweather, who totaled 1,049 yards rushing last season, Frank and Josh Schellenberg have competed for the starting running back position in camp.

“That’s a tough place to fill in, ” Crouch said.

Frank entered a similar role as the former standout Christian Uphoff, who now plays football at Illinois State University, did during his career at Washington, playing four positions on offense in practice.

Last season, Frank played short stints at quarterback, running back and receiver. However, his biggest impact was on defense, leading the team with a school single-season record eight interceptions.

He hasn’t let his record change his approach to this season.

“I’d like to play better than I did last year,” Frank said. “It was my first year playing starting defensive back and I guess I did pretty good, so I’d like to break my own record from last year.”

If he records one interception this season, he becomes Washington’s all-time leader for picks in a career.

“He had a really good year defensively,” Crouch said. “Really, if you look at it, Christian Uphoff’s freshman and sophomore years weren’t great seasons and his junior season he played defense only. When you look at (Frank), he’s played both sides (of the ball) and been a huge impact on defense. We ask him to do a lot of different things on offense and he’s done a pretty good job for us.”

Frank said he’s willing to do anything the team needs him to do and looks forward to the test presented to him.

The test begins when the Panthers host Normal University at 7 p.m. Aug. 26 at Babcook Field.

Last season’s record

— 11-1

Number of returning letterman

— 25

Number of lost letterman

— 21

Number of lost starters

— Four on offense, four on defense

Number of returning starters

— Seven on offense, seven on defense

Four facts about the team

— Majority are multi-sport athletes.

— Have one returning academic all-state athlete in Mason Diederich.

— Participated in a number of volunteer activities in the offseason.

— Sporting new jerseys this fall.