The first seven minutes in the season opener looked eerily familiar to the Mattoon Green Wave.
After two shovel pass touchdown passes from Ashton Summers to Christian Keyeha and a Mattoon turnover gave Mt. Zion an early 14-0 lead, the Braves look poised for their second straight lopsided win against the Green Wave, 21-7.
But after the Green Wave defense stiffened the rest of the way and the offense found its rhythm, this was anyone’s game with a Mattoon score with 2 minutes, 2 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Green Wave nearly recovered an onside kick, but the ball took a fortuitous hop to a red jersey.
Mattoon was left with just one timeout and forced a third-and-five near midfield with a minute to play, when the Braves again executed a well-designed shovel pass from Summers to Keyeha after the Green Wave defense had sold out on the run.
To say the Mattoon fans who made the trip and coaching staff were impressed, would be a huge understatement.
“I think anyone who walked out here and saw their size and speed, most would say ‘uh oh, we’re in trouble,’ said MHS coach Troy Johnson. “And, early, it looked like that. But our kids stayed in there and kept fighting. We knew our numbers are down this year and tried to run the clock, but we had a chance to win at the end.”
After Mattoon spotted the Braves 14 points, Mattoon’s defense tightened and the offense started to move the football. Mattoon had the football inside the Braves 20-yard-line twice in the first half, but failed to produce point.
A 4th quarter drive that lasted 8:14 started at Mattoon’s 20-yard-line produced the Green Wave’s only touchdown, capped by a Jackson Spurgeon to Logan Blackburn 1-yard touchdown pass. The Green Wave committed three turnovers and Mt. Zion fumbled twice.
Spurgeon completed 18 of 31 passes for 202 yards and the touchdown, while Blackburn grabbed six passes for 73 yards, and Keegan Kirts and Dillon Burton each had 3 catches. Nate Eldridge led the ground game with 56 yards on 10 carries.
The Wave return to action Friday night at Taylorville.