PAXTON (WCIA) — At Paxton-Buckley-Loda, everyone is a Panther.
“We talk about that every single day, about helping one another,” PBL head coach Jeff Graham said. “So when I heard it, I’m like, ‘That’s exactly what it’s all about.'”
That includes first-time football player Jonathon Warnick. On Friday, the freshman left his uniform at home on picture day. By the time he came back from his house with his jersey, the pictures were already taken. That’s when senior Mason Ecker stepped in.
“I was like, ‘Can he just be in the picture? He’s having a rough time,'” Ecker said. “I knew they would do it.”
The photographer agreed to take Warnick’s picture separately and photoshop him into the team photograph later.
“Friday, I was kind of let down and stuff,” Warnick said. “And after he talked to me a couple of things, I said, ‘Oh, he’s a pretty nice guy. I enjoyed him.'”
“It just shows that everybody is part of the team,” Ecker said. “If I wasn’t playing as much as I was, I’d still be rooting on my teammates just like he is.”
It’s the type of inclusion and team effort that the Panthers hope carries into the season. Especially in a big-time season opener against the defending state champion Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley.
“Only eight teams in the state of Illinois get to play the defending state champion and it’s great,” said Graham. “It just really gives us an opportunity to see where we’re at.”
“We’ve known them since our youth and we always got beat by them,” Ecker added.
Friday means another chance to go head-to-head with GCMS in what will be one of their toughest games of the season. The Panthers last win over the Falcons was in 2016.