By Kyle Daubs
After a combined four wins during the past two years, Mattoon’s senior class is ready to get back to winning football games.
The Mattoon Green Wave begin their season tonight with 55 players listed on the roster. The team will be led by a deep senior class, including many starting for a third year.
“It hasn’t been too bad,” said Johnson. “Our numbers weren’t where we wanted them to be, but we continued to grow and get kids out once the official season began. We have a good number of kids who put in a good time during the summer that we can build around.”
One of the newcomers will be an All-Apollo Conference basketball player, who is listed at 6 feet 8 and 265 pounds. Bradbury strengthens an offensive line that is becoming one of the greatest strengths on the team. All-Apollo Conference linebacker Aiden Spurgeon will also play on the offensive line. Spurgeon, listed at 5 feet 11 and 195 pounds, will be joined by TJ Owens (5-10, 185), Riley Spencer (6-1, 180), and Wyatt Arndt (6-2, 200).
“It’s been a matter of bringing the younger guys up to speed,” said Johnson. “We are very excited about Sam Bradbury coming out. Sam has never played, but he is one large human being that moves very well. it’s not looking horrible. We have a lot of potential there.”
The line will look to protect third-year starter, Jackson Spurgeon, the team’s starting quarterback two years ago when the team went 2-7 and last season when the Green Wave finished 2-4.
Spurgeon was on the varsity roster as a freshman when the Green Wave made the second round of the playoffs in 2018. He would like to cap off his senior year by leading the team back to the playoffs.
“Jackson has come a long way and has worked hard on his craft,” said Johnson. “He has put in a lot of work, time, and effort. We were watching film from him during his sophomore year against Triad. What we have seen from him at practice, he has come a long way.”
Mattoon will have a hole to fill after losing All-Conference running back Jakai Johnson, who rushed for more than 600 yards last season. Johnson said that several players will fill this role during games. Tyreke Grace and Aiden Blackburn are listed as the top two options for now while Kobe Cardwell and Gavin Gline could also make contributions.
“We have several young guys who are learning some new stuff,” said Johnson. “There are four to five kids that you might see back there throughout the game.”
The Green Wave lost their top receiving targets last year but Derrius White, Matthew Gordon, and Chase Woodard had a great summer according to Johnson.
“They didn’t miss anything this summer,” said Johnson. “They were out here every day running and trying to get in great shape. They have great hands, work hard. They are some good upperclassmen that are good to build around.”
Aiden Spurgeon will be the team’s top linebacker after the loss of All-Apollo First Team Zach Shick graduated.
“Aiden won’t necessarily be the most vocal one, but he leads by example,” said Johnson. “He is a very physical kid that runs well. Just a very strong kid. He has put in the time and will be a leader on defense.”
In the secondary, White, Woodard, and Gordon could fill out cornerback and safety positions. Cardwell, Wilson Spraker, and Slayton Trier, the team’s listed backup quarterback, could also see time there. Cardwell will be the team’s kicker.
“It’s a concern for me, which is why we need some of the younger kids that are less experienced to get up to speed,” said Johnson. “You are talking about some of our key contributors on offense playing both ways.”
Mattoon finished 2-3 in the Apollo last year with wins over Taylorville and Lincoln, good enough for fifth place. Johnson believes the Apollo will be just as stacked this year. Mattoon’s non-conference schedule will be just as difficult with Troy Triad, Collinsville, and Marion on the schedule.
“Mount Zion and Effingham are both going to be good,” said Johnson. “The Apollo Conference is tough. Everyone is good enough to beat us every game, so we can’t have any letdowns. There are no weeks off. Making the playoffs is always a goal. Winning the conference is always a goal. In the short term, we’re going to get better every day. The other stuff will come with it. It’s always been my philosophy to work hard, have fun, and the rest will come.”
With renovations to the high school athletic fields, all home games will be played at O’Brien Stadium at Eastern Illinois University.
|5||Shay Carter Alvis||TE/DL||6’1″||185||2022|
|TODAY||@ Triad High School||Triad High|
|9/3||vs. Mt Zion High School||EIU|
|9/10||vs. Taylorville High School||EIU|
|9/17||@ Effingham High School||Effingham High|
|9/24||vs. Collinsville High School [Homecoming/Sr NIght]||EIU|
|10/1||@ Lincoln High School||Lincoln High|
|10/8||vs. Charleston High School – Clash||EIU|
|10/15||@ Mahomet Seymour High School||Mahomet High|
|10/22||@ Marion High School||Marion High|
All games begin at 7 p.m.