By Mike Monahan

Mattoon High football coach Troy Johnson was pleased overall with the team’s play in a 21-7 loss to No. 10 Mount Zion in the season-opener.

“Overall we played well and played hard,” said Johnson. “We have a lot of kids back with speed. We should have shut them down and we didn’t do it. It was just our own mistakes. We are trying to clean up things.”

Junior quarterback Jackson Surgeon threw for 202 yards, completing 18-of-31, including a one-yard pass to Logan Blackburn, who had six catches for 73 yards in what was his first start. 

“Logan Blackburn is a nice addition,” said Johnson. “Spurgeon is progressing like he had a sophomore season under his belt. He will continue to get better. He went through a rough experience last year and it is paying off now.”

Nate Eldridge had 10 carries for 56 yards, while Kegan Kirts and Dillon Burton had three receptions apiece. 

Taylorville is coming off a 40-0 win over Pontiac last Friday when quarterback Kamren Heimsness passed for 297 yards and three touchdowns, including an 87-yarder and a 53-yarder to Ethan Mileham who seemed to do it all. He caught 10 passes overall for 223 yards an added 55 yards rushing on 14 carries, kicked three extra points and booted a 58-yard punt. 

Cole Repsher gained another 66 yards on 13 carries. 

The Tornadoes beat Mattoon 34-13 last year. Taylorville finished 5-5 overall, losing to Illinois Valley Central 31-22 in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs. 

“They have multiple sets and spread you out,” said Johnson. “Jeb Odam is a good coach (72-43, 12th season). They are difficult to defend. They do run pass options and multiple stuff. We have to be disciplined. Odam is an ex-college quarterback guy so he always has something up his sleeve. He is fun to play against I think.”

The Green Wave last beat Taylorville in 2016, 31-27. 

Johnson said Mattoon needs to dominate the game upfront.

“It always starts with the offensive and defensive line,” Johnson said. “We have to make sure we have no mental mistakes and we have to be on the same page and be where we are supposed to be.”