By Kyle Daubs

Jerry Payne has seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. 

While Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Field will not house any sugary treats, it will be the host site to the Coles County Clash. With only 2,000 tickets offered for this game due to COVID-19, both coaches know game tickets are also valuable.

“Over here, it’s Trojan gold. And over there, it’s Green Wave gold,” said the CHS football coach. 

Outside of the normal storylines, the season finale between the Charleston Trojans and Mattoon Green Wave has a lot on the line. Thanks to a 28-6 win over Taylorville last week, the 3-2 Trojans could secure a winning season for the first time since 2012. Meanwhile, Mattoon (2-3) is looking to build from a 42-18 win over Lincoln and hopes to avoid a losing season. 

With the added impact of playing on a college field, there’s plenty of buzz around Coles County. 

“I’ve had people contacting me trying to get tickets,” said Payne. “Each school only gets 1,000. We allowed the players to pick for their family first. It’s a hot ticket right now. It’s going to be pretty exciting. In the past, if it’s cold most would just stream it at home. I think everyone’s going to show up. With a win, they get to be .500, and a loss would put us at .500. There seems to be a lot on the line for this game.”

Once upon a time, it did not appear EIU would host the game, which was originally scheduled to take place at CHS.

“We’re all excited to be able to play at Eastern,” said Mattoon football coach Troy Johnson. “It was in question if we would be able to pull this off, but the folks over there have been so awesome. It’s an awesome opportunity to play on turf. EIU’s facility is just great. All 2,000 tickets are going to be used for this game.”

Fans will witness two of the better running backs in the conference – Mattoon’s Jakai Johnson and Charleston’s Cory Spour. Johnson has rushed for 426 yards and three touchdowns. Spour is coming off a 157-yard performance last week, which included three touchdowns. 

Spour owns 527 rushing yards and eight touchdowns this season. Quarterback Jack Nelson, meanwhile, threw for 111 yards on 11-of-14 passing and a touchdown last week.

“They have more than one threat, “ said Johnson. “If you look at the film from last year to this year, they have really improved. Coach Payne has done a really good job over there.They can run the ball, throw the ball. Their quarterback is mobile. Their running back is solid. Without a doubt, they are a good football team.”

Mattoon also brings a potent run game. Along with Johnson, Zach Shick has three touchdowns while quarterback Jackson Spurgeon has rushed for 142 yards on 56 carries to go with 496 passing yards. 

“Mattoon has a really good run game,” said Payne. “They have a solid pass game, too. Their quarterback is a pretty good player. You watch him on film and he makes sound throws. He runs well. He’s a dual threat that we are going to have to really watch and know where he’s at. Our coaches have done a great job of tightening things down to stop the run. It’s been difficult for us at times. Our line and linebackers coaches have worked a lot with the kids and have been making adjustments to make sure we are in the right position to take out their run game.”

By now, both teams have played enough to know each other. Mattoon has won the last seven matchups, but their rival has enough talent this season to potentially break the streak. 

In a football season that will not have IHSA playoffs, this will be the Coles County version of a state championship or bowl game, and Johnson loves that the teams are able to end the year this way. 

“I like having the rivalry game at the end of the year,” said Johnson. “So many times in the past, it gets put toward the beginning. It was a warm-up game for a playoff atmosphere. In this weird year, it’s nice having it at the end because it’s going to feel like a playoff atmosphere.”

In two seasons, the Trojans have won more games than all CHS teams combined from 2013-18. With only a six-game season, four wins would give the team closure despite not having any playoffs. 

“This is a big game, but we are more focused on doing our jobs,” said Payne. “We are not really trying to talk too much about winning. It’s more about what Mattoon does and what we need to stop. It would be a huge accomplishment given where Charleston teams have been in the past few years, but we don’t talk about that in front of the kids and they are more focused on what they need to do to win the big game.”

Johnson is familiar with big games from coaching at Marshall High School, whose rival was Casey-Westfield.  

“We’ve always taken it one game at a time,” said Johnson. “Obviously, it’s such a big rivalry game. You could go 0-fer and beat Charleston, and it wouldn’t matter if you had a winning season or not.”

TEAM STATS

TEAM RECORDS: Charleston 3-2, Mattoon 2-3

PAST RESULTS: Mattoon lost to Mount Zion 21-7 beat Taylorville 19-14; lost to Effingham 28-0, lost to Monticello 43-0, beat Lincoln 42-18; Charleston beat Lincoln 54-0, lost to Effingham 34-14, beat St. Joseph-Ogdon 56-14, lost to Mahomet-Seymour 35-3, beat Taylorville 28-6

TICKETS: 2000 tickets are available. 1,000 tickets through each school

SCHOOL SIZE: Mattoon 1,043; Charleston 804

KICKOFF: Friday, 7 p.m. at O’Brien Field

Mattoon Passing Game: Junior quarterback Jackson Spurgeon has completed 46 passes on 101 attempts for 496 yards. He has thrown four touchdowns and seven interceptions. In last week’s win over Lincoln, Spurgeon threw for 135 yards.

Mattoon Rushing Game: Senior Jakai Johnson leads the way with 426 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Last week, Johnson rushed for over 200 yards and three touchdowns. Spurgeon adds 142 yards after rushing for over 100 yards last week. Zach Shick adds 117 yards and three touchdowns.

Mattoon Receiving Game: Logan Blackburn leads the team with 11 receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown. Dillon Burton owns two touchdown receptions, while Shick has six receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown.

Charleston Passing Game: Junior quarterback Jack Nelson has completed 51 of 87 passes for 717 yards. He has thrown for eight touchdowns compared to just two interceptions. Senior Sam Schuette has completed two of five passes for 16 yards.

Charleston Rushing Game: Senior Cory Spour has 527 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. He has recorded 100-yard rushing games three times. Ty Coartney adds 91 yards and a touchdown, while Nelson has recorded 90 yards and two rushing touchdowns.

Charleston Receiving Game: Sam Schuette leads the way with 224 yards and three touchdowns on 11 receptions, while Brayden Rennels has 14 receptions for 202 yards. Spour leads the team in receptions with 15 for 152 yards.

Defense: Mattoon defensive stats were not readily available. For Charleston, Spour leads the team with 47 tackles and four tackles for loss. Nate Shrader adds 31 tackles and two tackles for loss, while Tyler Thompson has three tackles for loss. Schuette needs three interceptions to tie Charleston’s school record in a season.

TICKET INFORMATION

• Eastern Illinois won’t distribute any tickets.

• Tickets will not be sold at the gates. Thus, only those who received tickets before the game will be allowed to enter O’Brien. Unlike at some other prep football games, spectators won’t be allowed into the game by showing proof of COVID vaccination.

• Masks and social distancing will be required of all spectators at all times.

• No tailgating will be allowed as the parking lots will open just an hour prior to kickoff. Gates will open at the same time as the parking lots.

• There will be no re-entry. If you leave the stadium, you must leave the game.

• No seating will be allowed on the visitor bleachers on the east side of the field.

• School bands won’t perform, nor will halftime performances by cheer and/or dance teams take place on the field.

• Parent and booster club decorations won’t be permitted.

• There will be no JFL presence prior to the game.

• Only coaches, athletes, managers and trainers will be allowed on the sidelines.