By Mike Monahan

Charleston takes on an opponent tonight that it does not usually face in St. Joseph-Ogden, which features two strong running backs, an opportunistic defense and a rich history. Here is a breakdown on tonight’s game.

TEAM RECORDS: Charleston (1-1), St. Joseph-Ogden (1-1)

PAST RESULTS: Charleston defeated Lincoln 54-0 and lost to Effingham 34-14; St. Joseph-Ogden lost to Illinois Valley Central 33-16 and defeated Pontiac 28-0.

TICKETS: 700 Charleston fans and 200 fans from St. Joseph-Ogden as well as anyone who has received both vaccines (bring vaccine proof with a proper ID) can attend the game.

SCHOOL SIZE: Charleston 804, St. Joseph Ogden 467

KICKOFF: Thursday, 7 p.m. at Trojan Hill [Senior Night]

OPPONENT HISTORY: The Spartans are traditionally a Class 3A playoff team having made the 3A or 2A playoffs in 27 of the past 29 seasons missing out in 1990 and 2017. SJO earned the state-runner up in 1989 [Class 2A], 1997 [Class 2A] and Class 3A in 1999, 2006 and 2013. “St. Joseph-Ogden has a rich history,” said Charleston coach Jerry Payne, who is in his second season after guiding the Trojans to a 3-6 season last year. We know they have a pretty solid program all these years and we Expect good competition. We hope we can hang in compete with them.”

OPPONENT COACH: SJO is coached by Shawn Skinner, a 1991 St. Joseph-Ogden grad who played in the 1989 title game under Illinois Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame member Dick Duval and was also an assistant for four years under Duvall. This is Skinner’s fifth year with currently a 20-21 record, including three Class 3A playoff appearances. The Spartans were 5-5 last year losing to Williamsville 54-26 in the first round.  

ST. JOSEPH RUNNING GAME: Keaton Nolan has 36 carries for 172 yards and three TDs, Isaih Moore has 21 carries for 117 yards and a TD. “It looks like they run out of the I-formation or shotgun and run power, counter, toss and run inside zone,” said Payne. “They do a little bit of passing, which looks solid.”

ST. JOSEPH PASSING GAME: Quarterback Evan Ingram has completed 14 of 39 passing attempts for 244 yards and a TD in his first year as a starter. Brady Buss has six catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns.

ST. JOSEPH DEFENSE: The Spartans forced three turnovers and recorded a safety last week against Illinois Valley. The defense is led by safeties Ethan Vanliew and Hayden Brazelton. Said Payne: “They run a 3-4 defense, but a linebacker walks up to make it look like almost a five-man front. They have the cornerbacks over the top.”

MISCELLANEOUS: St. Joseph has 12 players that were starters for the first time in the season-opener. 

CHARLESTON PASSING GAME: Jack Nelson, in his first year as the starting quarterback, has completed half of his 50 passes for 335 yards and three TDs with one interception. Brayden Rennels has caught seven passes for 126 yards and Sam Schuette has seven receptions for 113 yards. They each have one TD. Ty Coartney has four receptions for 20 yards and a TD.

CHARLESTON RUNNING GAME: Cory Spour rushed for 81 yards last week against Effingham after exploding for 206 in the opener vs. Lincoln. He has 287 yards on 40 carries and five TDs, an average of more than 7 yards per carry. Schuette has two carries for 24 yards.

CHARLESTON DEFENSE: Leading the Trojan defense is Spour (27 tackles, including three for a loss). Wade Wright and Nate Shrader have 18 tackles each. Wright also had a tackle for a loss. “Our defense is playing well,” said Payne. “We added a linebacker and took away a defensive back, but sometimes he is like a linebacker. That gives us a couple of extra covers that we didn’t have before.”

COACH COMMENTS: “We can’t make mistakes against top-ranked teams or is it going to come up and bite you,” Payne said. “Late in the game, we were able to put another scoring drive together. They have a consistent go-to-work attitude, and I am pleased with the progress they have made.”

ABOUT LAST WEEK: “I will give [Effingham] coach [Brett] Hefner credit as he took what we were doing and made some changes,” Payne said. “It was a good chess game between us and I might have been playing checkers for a while.”

SENIOR NIGHT: Here are Charleston’s seniors who will be honored tonight – Sam Schuette, Brayden Rennels, Cory Spour, Ty Coartney, Blade Dukeman, Damian Cox, Drew Matheny, Petyon Daugherty, Ethan Blatnik, Bryce Johnson, and Tayler Thompson.