The Illinois High School Association and its broadcast partners at the NFHS Network and PlayOn! Sports announced Wednesday that Saturday's IHSA semifinal football playoff game between Washington High School and Sacred Heart Griffin High School will be broadcast on statewide television, as well as streamed free online at www.IHSA.tv for a national audience.
The contest, scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday at Sacred Heart Griffin's campus in Springfield, will be aired live by Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Springfield's WCIX and WAOE and WYZZ in Peoria. Viewers are encouraged to use the hashtag #TeamIL in social media to help raise awareness.
"This started as an idea to find a location to show the game for the fans in Washington who won't be able to make it to Springfield," said PlayOn! Sports President Tim Eichorst. "As we reached out to folks at the various local television stations and CSN Chicago, we found tremendous support and a desire to do something more. It really materialized from there into an event that is bigger than a football game, one that everyone involved hopes will have an impact on those affected around the state. Each partner has made a significant contribution to pull this together so quickly and we thank them for the support in making this unprecedented broadcast happen."
The community of Washington was devastated by an EF-4 tornado on Sunday that killed one person and leveled nearly 1,000 homes in the town of 15,000. The tornado struck less than 24 hours after the Panther football team had improved to 12-0 on the season and moved within one victory of an appearance in the IHSA Class 5A state championship game Saturday, November 30 at NIU in DeKalb.
The National Weather Service has confirmed that at least 16 tornadoes struck parts of Illinois on Sunday, resulting in Governor Quinn declaring 13 Illinois counties disaster areas. Saturday's televised broadcast will include information on how, where and what viewers can donate to help those impacted across Illinois.
"The goal now is provide awareness and relief to all of the affected areas throughout the state," said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. "This storm left a path of destruction from Nashville in southern Illinois to Washington to Coal City and beyond. Washington is an incredibly compelling story, given that they are still playing in the playoffs and suffered so much damage from the storm. We hope to use that attention to not only help Washington, but also all of the other Illinois communities who are reeling from this tragedy."
Hickman cited the outpouring of support from many neighboring schools and communities for Washington that have already taken place, including from its semifinal opponent.
"There has been a tremendous level of support from schools and teams around the state to help those communities impacted by this disaster," said Hickman. "That speaks to the fiber of the parents, educators, and coaches who understand the importance of being a part of team and assisting others when they need it most."
Sacred-Heart Griffin has organized several charter busses to take Washington residents to and from Saturday's game. The school will also feed those fans, feed the Washington football team a pre- and postgame meal and has several other fundraisers and drives associated with the game to help their opponent.
Additionally, the IHSA will be donating $1 for each ticket sold at the Washington-Sacred Heart Griffin game to the American Red Cross' relief effort for this disaster.
Interested viewers are encouraged to check their local listings for channel availability. The game will be available on over-the-air (non-cable/dish) television in the Peoria (WAOE & WYZZ) and Springfield (WCIX) markets. CSN Chicago also serves those markets on cable/dish, as well as the rest of the state with the exception of counties bordering St. Louis, Mo., due to professional sports network broadcasting regulations. CSN Chicago is also available nationally with the Comcast Sports upgrade package.
"I sometimes wonder if we sensationalize the role of sports in recovery from tragedies like this," added Hickman. "Any notion of that was dashed when I heard Washington resident Scott Gundy talk about the Washington High School football team on the Today Show on Monday. Communities develop deep bonds with their teams all over our state, and we hope Saturday's game will provide the residents or Washington, and any other affected communities, a few hours of temporary reprieve from their rebuilding efforts."