(Sean Hussey, photo by Steve Staskiewicz)
Could the Coles County All-Decade team win a state championship?
That’s the real question out of all of this.
Let’s be real, there have been some tough seasons over the last decade in football. Charleston has not made the playoffs since 2012, including three winless seasons. However, in 2011-2012, the Trojans had some of the best football players to ever go through Coles County.
Those players helped lead Charleston to a school-record 11-2 record and a Final Four appearance. In 2012, if the Trojans weren’t matched up with state champion Rochester in the second round, the team might have made it back during a 9-2 season.
As for Mattoon, after three rough years, the Troy Johnson-led Green Wave qualified for the playoffs in five of the next 10 years. That included two second-round appearances and an Apollo Conference championship in 2014.
In the last decade, there was plenty of college football talent coming out of Coles County, so we ask the question again. Could this team win it all?
QB: Sean Hussey: CHS Class of 2013: Hussey is just one of two CHS players in the history of the school to be named the Decatur Herald Player of the Year. Hussey was a two-time All-State selection, helping pioneer the Trojans to a Final Four appearance in 2011 and the school’s best scoring offense in 2012. Hussey owns all the career passing records, throwing for 5,975 yards and 52 touchdowns. Hussey once threw for 392 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Newton. Hussey was given a walk-on spot at the University of Illinois.
RB: Josh Cazley: CHS Class of 2014: Cazley did not finish his senior season at Charleston after transferring away. However, his two years at CHS were remarkable. Cazley was an offensive machine, scoring 22 rushing touchdowns in 2012. His 24 overall touchdowns and 146 total offensive points are records. As it stands, Cazley is the school’s all-time scorer with 218 points. Who knows what the record book would have looked like if he stayed one more year.
FB: Noah Miller: CHS Class of 2013: “Bill” was a bull, and that was not meant to be funny. Miller was a guaranteed first down on third-and-short. Miller nearly made the “100-Point Club” his senior year, but finished with 92 offensive points with 14 rushing touchdowns and four two-point conversions. In three years, Miller accumulated 172 career offensive points, which is good enough for fourth all-time.
WR: Malik Joyner: MHS Class of 2015: Joyner was a unanimous All-Apollo receiver his senior season in which he recorded 50 catches for 921 yards and 10 touchdowns. The leading receiver helped Mattoon win their first Apollo Conference championship in just their second year in the league. Joyner is the all-time leader in receptions (90) and receiving yards (1,718).
WR: Tyrus Moss: MHS Class of 2012: It’s no surprise that another member of the Moss family is on an All-Decade list. His cousin, Trison, still holds the record for most rushing yards (328) in a game set in 2004. Tyrus set his own mark by setting a single-season school record for receptions (65) and receiving yards (1,068) in 2011. Moss did all of this against Big 12 Conference schools as well. The unanimous All-Big 12 Conference receiver later received an invitation to play at Eastern Illinois University.
WR: Truston Winnett: CHS Class of 2013: After scoring just one touchdown his first three years of football, Winnett erupted on the offensive plane his senior year. Winnett became the eighth member to join the 100-Point Club after scoring 102 total points. Despite 100 years of CHS football, Winnett is the school’s only 1000-yard receiver. Winnett finished the 2012 season with 1,034 yards and 14 touchdowns, both school records. Winnett was offered a spot on Monmouth’s football team.
OL: Cody Margenthaler: CHS Class of 2014: Margenthaler was a glue of the offensive line for three years. Margenthaler was a three-year starter and a two-time First-Team All-Apollo Conference lineman. Margenthaler was a lead blocker for Charleston’s run-dominant offense in 2013. The former 6-foot-4, 270-pound lineman was one of the best around.
OL: Dan Hildebrandt: CHS Class of 2013: Hildebrandt was a staple member of the line for two record-setting team offenses. Hildebrandt was a First-Team All-Apollo lineman for an offense that scored a school-record 43 rushing touchdowns and total offense (5,283) in 2011. Then, in 2012, the team set school records in points (497) and touchdowns (71). Hildebrandt’s blocking was a huge part of that.
OL: Gunner Runyon: MHS Class of 2019: Runyon was a four-year starter on the offensive line and a two-time all-conference selection. The 6-foot-1, 250-pound lineman was a consistent force at protecting all units on offense; hence, why he was given the opportunity to play starting his freshman season.
OL: Peyton Smith: MHS Class of 2019: What’s better than one dynamic lineman on offense? Two dynamic linemen on offense. Runyon’s teammate, Smith, continued his track career at Illinois State University as a thrower, but he could have easily played somewhere for football as well. A multi-All-Apollo selection, including First-Team in 2018, Smith towered at 6-foot-3, 250-pounds. Used at tackle and guard, Smith could play anywhere if needed.
OL: Chris Dyer: MHS Class of 2014: Dyer was a First-Team All-Apollo selection at lineman, leading the way for an offense that averaged 38.9 points per game. Dyer was a three-year starter that was the key cog in blocking for an offense that featured an all-conference quarterback, running back, and three wide receivers.
D: Jackson Nichols: MHS Class of 2019: Nichols stood at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds on the defensive line. He helped lead Mattoon to a 7-4 record and a second-round appearance in the playoffs. For his efforts, the First-Team All-Apollo selection was named to the All-State team as well. Nichols finished his football career as a two-time all-conference selection and continued his baseball career at Lake Land College.
D: Dillan Cazley: CHS Class of 2013: Cazley was one of the best defensive players to ever go through Coles County. Cazley broke onto the scene as a junior where he made 126 tackles, two interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. As a senior, Cazley missed four games as a senior, but still compiled 70 tackles and three interceptions. Cazley was the team’s defensive MVP, a two-time First-Team All-Apollo selection, Honorable-Mention All-State, and First-Team Academic All-State. Cazley was ranked as the No. 20 senior in the state of Illinois by Rivals and played a four-year career at the University of Illinois.
D: Chris Creek: CHS Class of 2012: Getting “Chris Creeked” used to be a trendy saying started by local fan Aaron Baker. It was an accurate description of potentially the best linebacker of the decade. Creek was a monster tackling. As a sophomore, Creek once recorded 24 tackles in a game on route to setting a school record 161 tackles in a season. That was followed by marks of 109 and 156 tackles the following year. The All-State linebacker was the emotional leader of the team and earned a spot at Eastern Illinois University.
D: Truston Winnett: CHS Class of 2013: How can you go against a cornerback that recorded nine interceptions in a season? In 2011, Winnett recorded three interceptions in not one, but two games (wins over Newton and Highland). Winnett finished with 14 interceptions in his career, which is a school record. If an opponent threw the ball his way, he made the quarterback pay.
D: Peyton Hartbank: MHS Class of 2015: Used primarily as a defensive back, Hartbank could play either safety or cornerback. Hartbank finished his football career as a three-time All-Apollo selection on defense. Given his speed and athleticism, he was the perfect man to have in the backfield. A standout two-sport athlete, Hartbank continued his baseball career at Illinois State University.
D: Jack Pilson: MHS Class of 2019: Pilson was a two-time All-Apollo selection as a defensive back. While stats are hard to find, any person that watched MHS football during his tenure knows the talent that Pilson had. Pilson was offered a scholarship by EIU, which is where his brother Jared and father Jaime played. However, he decided to continue his career at Lehigh University. Either way, Pilson was just another NCAA Division I athlete that came out of the Pilson family.
D: Jacob Harris: MHS Class of 2015: Harris was a two-time First-Team All-Apollo linebacker, including being named the only unanimous choice on defense in the conference in 2014. He was a two-way starter on special teams as well. His senior year, he topped the 100-tackle mark and helped lead the Green Wave defensively to two playoff berths. His junior year, he was also a Second-Team all-conference receiver.
D: Andy Vieth: MHS Class of 2015: Vieth was a two-way all-conference pick on the offensive line, but we are going to give him the nod at defense. As a junior, Vieth had six quarterback sacks and 11 tackles for loss. As a defensive lineman, Vieth was a two-time First-Team All-Apollo selection.
D: Brayden Doyle: CHS Class of 2020: Doyle was named the first JG-TC Player of the Year after he led the Trojans as a two-way athlete. As a running back, Doyle rushed for 594 yards, but it was on the defensive end where he shined. His eight tackles for loss helped his cause as he was named to the honorable-mention all-state team.
D: Jesse Campbell: CHS Class of 2013: Campbell makes the cut primarily as a defensive lineman. The former 6-foot-2, 220-pound lineman was a First-Team All-Apollo lineman that was versatile all over the defensive plane. As a senior, Campbell recorded 28 tackles for loss, including six in a win over Mattoon. His only two sacks of the season came in the playoffs. Furthermore, having Campbell up front was a huge addition.
D: Germaine Armstrong: MHS Class of 2015: Armstrong was referred to as a “horse” by several coaches around the Apollo. As a junior, Armstrong was a First-Team selection for recording 54 solo tackles, 20 assists, and 6.5 tackles for loss at linebacker. Then, as a senior, he was a two-way Second-Team All-Apollo selection at linebacker and running back. Armstrong hit hard and asked questions later.
K: Nick Wilson: CHS Class of 2013: There were some pretty darn good kickers last decade once soccer coaches and football coaches collaborated. We can give a shoutout to Mattoon’s Zack Lensink here because he was a dominant kicker for three years for the Green Wave. Shoutout to Charleston’s Dalton Runyon who kicked eight extra points in a win over Rantoul in 2011. However, we are going to go with Wilson who was given ample opportunities during Charleston’s historic offensive run. Wilson was the only player to knock two field goals in a game. Wilson also holds the school record for 47 PATs in a season. In a role as a kickoff man, he recorded eight touchbacks in a season. After walking on at EIU, Wilson eventually became the team’s go-to kicker.
P: Ethan Miller: CHS Class of 2013: Miller did not own any punting records, but put on the best punting average in the Trojans’ Final Four season. Miller led the state in punting average with 42.33 yards per punt. That included two 57-yard punts and eight punts that landed inside the 20-yard line.
KR: Dillian Cazley: CHS Class of 2013: Cazley did not return kicks his senior year after missing four games with an injury. Who knows what damage he would have done if he did? As a sophomore, Cazley returned one kickoff for a touchdown. Then, as a junior, Cazley returned four kickoffs for a touchdown as a senior. Potentially one of the fastest return men we have ever seen, Cazley could handle this position flawlessly.
PR: Peyton Hartbank: MHS Class of 2015: Considering that Hartbank owns MHS school records for longest kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns, this is a no brainer. Hartbank could probably make both spots on special teams, but we are trying to spread the wealth here.
B: Jared Pilson: MHS Class of 2015: It feels strange putting the best quarterback to ever go through Mattoon High School on the bench. However, due to one other quarterback this time, Pilson was slided to this spot. However, Pilson is no bench player. During his time in high school, he was a top quarterback in the state of Illinois. Pilson set the record books straight in all passing records. His single-season (2,732), career (4,524), single-season touchdown passes (29), and career touchdown passes (41) are going to be recorded for a very long time. Pilson later received a walk-on spot, which turned into a football scholarship, at Eastern Illinois University.
B: Treye Williams: MHS Class of 2011: Williams was a First-Team All-Big 12 Conference running back and barreled his way through for 816 yards and six touchdowns his senior season. Williams was a two-year starter and continued his career at McKendree University.
B: Myles Decker: CHS Class of 2014: Decker lost his entire senior year due to an injury, but he was the team’s entire offense in 2013. Decker holds the single game record for rushing attempts and yards in a game. In Charleston’s only win that season, Decker once rushed the ball 46 times for 268 yards. Decker holds the record for rushes in a season with 260 rush attempts, which set another record of touching the ball 28.8 times per game.
B: LJ Welsh: CHS Class of 2012: For a 5-foot-7, 155-pound running back, Welsh had more respect than any player that touched the football field. Perhaps one of the hardest workers on the field, Welsh was the team’s “horse.” As a junior, Welsh was all-conference with 814 yards and five touchdowns. As a senior, Welsh had to play backseat for five games while battling an injury. However, Welsh came back and led the team on the ground, including 122 yards in an upset win over Mount Zion that sent CHS to the Final Four.
B: Travis Kittell: MHS Class of 2014: Kittell is probably the hardest player to not put in the starting lineup. Despite finishing with just 33 catches for 552 yards and eight touchdowns, he was one of the biggest threats on the field. The problem was he lined up with his teammate Joyner, who received a higher bulk of the throws. Make no mistake, Kittell could hang with any quarterback against any defense at any time. It’s too bad we don’t have a flex position.
B: Tibet Spencer: CHS Class of 2012: Spencer went from no-name to Mr. Reliable in one year. In 2011, Spencer recorded a school-record 56 receptions in a season. Among those, he tied a school-record for four touchdown receptions in a win over Newton. Spencer was the closest player to Julian Edelman we have seen in a while. Make no mistake, if the ball was in his wheelhouse, the chances of Spencer catching it was pretty high.
B: Michael Heller: MHS Class of 2011: Heller was a quarterback, wide receiver, and punter during his time on the gridiron. Heller was a First-Team All-Big 12 Conference wide receiver his senior year when he caught 28 passes for 625 yards and five touchdowns. Heller was a two-year starter at quarterback before moving to wide receiver, showing that above all, he was in fact a team player. Heller received a walk-on spot at the University of Louisville.
B: Aaron Bence: CHS Class of 2012: No wonder Sean Hussey loved to throw the ball. When you had guys like Winnett, Spencer, and Aaron Bence lining up, you could do whatever you wanted. Bence was a two-time All-Apollo receiver, and one of the best deep threats downfield. Bence once converted a 90-yard touchdown pass, which is tied for the longest touchdown reception in school history. His best year came in 2011 when he hauled in 804 yards and eight touchdowns. Did we forget to mention he hauled in an 83-yard touchdown pass that season too? Need a Hail-Mary? Throw to Bence.
B: Shaunesy Carlen: MHS Class of 2012: Carlen was a complete football player. His senior year, Carlen was named a First-Team All-Big 12 defensive back. He ended up starting at quarterback for three years, and was once the career leader in passing yards before Pilson broke those records. Even though the wins didn’t transpire, Carlen deserves to be on this list.
B: Jacob Stevens: MHS Class of 2014: Stevens was a multi-All-Apollo selection and one of the best utility players the county has ever seen. As a senior, Stevens had a stat line of 73 rushes for 359 yards and 10 touchdowns, and 30 catches for 623 receiving yards for five touchdowns. Stevens was not the biggest player by any means, but he was going to outrace you.
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