By Kyle Daubs
Jackson Spurgeon didn’t shy away from it.
The Mattoon High School quarterback confidently said it a second time when was asked if he was sure.
“We’re winning The Clash this year,” said Spurgeon.
Charleston’s 27-7 win over Mattoon in the final game of the season in the spring gave the Trojans their first Coles County Clash victory since 2012. It gave Mattoon a losing record of 2-4 in a COVID-19 shortened season.
More importantly, it brought back the rivalry vibes that any football fan in Coles County can appreciate.
Spurgeon, who enters his senior year, has started at quarterback the past two seasons. Spurgeon was part of the 2-7 squad in 2019 but made the roster as a freshman during Mattoon’s last playoff appearance in 2018. The 7-4 season still resonates with him. Spurgeon wants to bring the Green Wave back to those heights in his final year.
“My freshman year, we had Jack Pilson and all those guys that we looked up to,” said Spurgeon. “We watched them win and saw how good they were. I miss it. Being that successful, including winning a game in the playoffs, was a big deal. I would love for my senior year, even if we didn’t make it all the way, to have a winning record like that and go out strong.”
Last year, Mattoon lost 21-7 to Mount Zion and then took down a tough Taylorville group; 19-14, before collapsing in three of its final four games to finish near the bottom of the Apollo standings.
“We just weren’t on the same page that we needed to be,” said Spurgeon. “I wasn’t on the same page and wasn’t always thinking straight. We needed everyone to play as a team and not for themselves. There is no “I” in the team. I think it just came down to the fact that we didn’t have chemistry last year.”
Spurgeon cited the pandemic as a contributing factor, but not the only reason for Mattoon’s struggles.
“I think it had a big part of it,” said Spurgeon. “We were going into the season ready and then they told us we weren’t playing. I don’t think a lot of guys got after it as you would hope.”
Entering this year, Mattoon will have to replace second-team All-Apollo running back Jakai Johnson on offense, as well as a couple of senior receivers, but Spurgeon likes how some of the new practice routines are helping during the offseason.
“Darius and Matthew (Gordon) are two receivers I love throwing at,” said Spurgeon. “We need to get Tanner Baker, our tight end, up to speed, but all three are just really stepping up right now. We have a mainly sophomore group of running backs who are also stepping up. Everyone is getting after it and the chemistry is coming along. After lifting, we go out and work on our timing. I just gotta do my job and get everyone the ball.”