by Jeremy Arzuaga
The Coles County Clash trophy will stay in Mattoon for a seventh year after the Mattoon Green Wave defeated the Charleston Trojans, 27-17, at Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Stadium on Friday night in an Apollo Conference football game.
The Green Wave (1-1, 1-0) dominated on both sides of the ball, rushing for more than 200 yards while limiting Charleston (1-1, 0-1) to fewer than 50 yards on the ground.
Abraham Baker powered through the Charleston defense 20 times to compile 149 yards, which included a 52-yard run in which the senior broke through the line of scrimmage and cut left along the sideline before getting tackled inside the 10-yard-line during the final minutes that secured the victory for Mattoon. Baker, who had three receptions overall, also caught a 10-yard pass to help sustain the opening touchdown drive in the first quarter.
Quarterback Jackson Spurgeon rushed for an additional 93 yards, scoring once on the ground and another time on a pass completion. The sophomore threw for 114 yards overall, completing 62.5 percent of his passes.
“The offensive line improved greatly since last game with their blocking,” Spurgeon said. “A couple new plays got us motivated to get down on offense.”
Despite the strong offensive showing, it was an 82-yard interception return by Mattoon cornerback Cameron Knierim that might have swayed the momentum toward the Green Wave.
“Without a doubt, the pick six by Knierim helped change the game for our team and led to more turnovers,” Baker said.
While Charleston struggled to run the ball, quarterback Nick Cheney threw for 183 yards and two touchdowns. He completed a 55-yard touchdown pass to Brayden Rennels in the fourth quarter that cut the Trojans’ deficit to 27-14.
Mattoon coach Troy Johnson praised his counterpart, Jerry Payne, for Charleston’s performance.
“Look, it’s his first year at the helm and they won their first football game in a couple years (last week),” Johnson said. “He’s done a darn great job over there.”
Coach Payne’s biggest takeaway from the Coles County matchup was the team’s resilience throughout all four quarters of the game.
“Coach Johnson shook my hand and said, ‘Hey, you got kids that don’t give up,’” Payne said. “The score doesn’t show it, but we played hard.”
Next Friday, Charleston will travel to Mt. Zion while the Mattoon will play Mahomet in Apollo Conference game.