By Mike Monahan

Mattoon takes on the No. 3 team in Class 4A in  Effingham today in an Apollo Conference contest on Senior Night. Effingham features a strong ground game as well as a strong defense. Here is a breakdown on tonight’s game: 

TEAM RECORDS: Effingham 2-0, Mattoon 1-1

PAST RESULTS: Mattoon lost to Mount Zion 21-7 beat Taylorville 19-14; Effingham def. Mahomet-Seymour 21-0 and Charleston 34-14. “Winning always cures a lot of problems, at least I think it does,” said Mattoon coach Troy Johnson of the week of practice after the win. “The kids are working pretty hard.”

TICKETS: No limit on crowd and no admission fee

SCHOOL SIZE: Mattoon 1,043; Effingham 726

KICKOFF: Friday, 7 p.m. at Gaines Field (Senior NIght for football players, cheerleaders, dance team and ROTC Drill and Rifle)

OPPONENTS HISTORY: The Flaming Hearts have made the Class 4A playoffs the last three years, including the semifinals last season where they lost to Murphysboro/Elvarado, 20-17, in Class 4A. The only other time they made the semifinals was in 1980 in Class 3A when they lost to Harrisburg, 36-14. Effingham has been in the playoffs 21 times, including three in Class 3A, 13 in Class 4A and five in Class 5A. Effingham was 11-2 last year with 11 wins the most in one season. 

OPPONENTS COACH: Effingham is coached by Bret tHefner, a Waterloo and Illinois College graduate. He is in his sixth season at Effingham with a current record of 37-18. Hefner is the son-in-law of former Mattoon coach and Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame member Gerald Temples. Hefner was the offensive coordinator at Mattoon under Temples from 2005-07 and was also an assistant under IHSFCA member Mark Ramsey at Central A&M and was the defensive coordinator at Websters Grove in St. Louis. He was also the head coach at Shelbyville for two years and Centralia for three years. Overall, he is 48-53 in his 11th season as a head coach. Said Johnson: “They are a well coached team and have very good athletes. They have the ability to run and pass. We have our work cut out for us.”

EFFINGHAM RUNNING GAME: Chase Woomer leads the way with 51 carries for 272 yards and two touchdowns, while Trevor Donsbauch has 19 carries for 143 yards and three TDs. Overall the Hearts have 81 carries for 446 yards and six touchdowns for an average of 223 yards rushing per game. 

EFFINGHAM PASSING GAME: Quarterback Nate Thompson has completed 20 of 43 passes for 267 yards and two TDs with no interceptions. Tristan Dunchan is the top receiver with 12 catches for 185 yards and a TD. 

EFFINGHAM DEFENSE: Jacob Stoneburner has 22 tackles to lead EHS while Austin Herboth has 16 and Gabe Kline 15 tackles each. The defense has recovered two fumbles, intercepted two passes and blocked a punt. “They are fundamentally sound,” said Johnson. “They are similar to us in that they run a 4-3 type package, but it depends what we throw at them.”

MISCELLANEOUS: The temperature at the start of the game is forecast to be 47 with a feels like of 43 and by the end of the game it is 40 with a feels like of 35. “We have practiced when it was 15 degrees so we are prepared for that,” said Johnson. 

SERIES: Effingham has won the last three meetings with Mattoon by an average score of 46-11. Mattoon’s last win was Oct. 7, 2016, 41-19, also at Mattoon. Since Mattoon joined the Apollo Conference in 2012-13 the Green Wave have won five of the eight contests. The average score is Effingham 31, Mattoon 25. 

MATTOON PASSING GAME: Jackson Spurgeon, who also started last year, is 18-of-31 for 202 yards and a TD against Mount Zion. Logan Blackburn is the top receiver. He has six receptions for 73 yards against the Braves.

MATTOON RUNNING GAME: Nate Eldridge had 10 carries for 56 yards against Mount Zion, while Jakahi Johnson led against Taylorville with 22 carries for 109 yards. Spurgeon also had 16 carries for 73 yards and Zach Shick had nine carries for 40 yards and a touchdown against the Tornadoes. 

MATTOON DEFENSE: Tackle stats were not available, but the Green Wave have allowed 17.5 points per game and had a game-winning 70-yard interception return for a touchdown against Taylorville by Hayden Williams. 

SENIOR NIGHT: Here are the senior football players that will be honored tonight: Dillon Burton, Nathaniel Eldridge, Zachary Shick, Jakai Johnson, Kagan Kirts, Zach Watkins, Hayden Williams and Dakota Spencer.