By Kyle Daubs

Moving from one conference champion to play a conference champion contender, the Mattoon High School football schedule doesn’t get any easier.

After a tough loss to former Mississippi Valley Conference champions Troy Triad last week, the Green Wave return home to play the favorites to win the Apollo Conference. Despite the loss, Mattoon led Triad in the fourth quarter. With the lights set to shine at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium, the momentum could carry over. 

Here’s a preview of Friday night’s game. 

Team Records: Mount Zion (1-0, 0-0), Mattoon (0-1, 0-0)

Past Results: Last year, Mount Zion defeated Mattoon 21-7. Graduated All-Apollo quarterback Ashton Summers threw 319 passing yards and three touchdowns for the Braves. Last week, Mount Zion defeated Limestone, 44-13, while Mattoon lost to Troy Triad, 26-13. Mattoon held a 13-6 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter and were tied at 13 before a controversial fumble changed the outcome. 

“(We’ll) just try and build off last week and give the same effort that we got,” said Mattoon coach Troy Johnson. “We have to make some adjustments. We have new players, some young players that made mistakes. It’s the way it is and we will try and fix those.”

Tickets: Tickets will be sold at the gate at O’Brien Stadium. 

School Size: Mount Zion (763), Mattoon (929)

Kickoff: 7 p.m

Opponent’s History: Patrick Etherton enters his sixth season as the head coach of the Braves. After a 5-1 abbreviated season last year, Etherton entered this season with an overall 34-12 record and three playoff appearances. That includes a 10-1 mark in 2019. 

“Mount Zion is going to be good,” said Johnson. “They have a nice setup. They have some good skill players. Their receivers are good and they have a young quarterback, who appears very athletic. The standard is that Mount Zion is good and we will need to be ready to play.”

Mount Zion Running Game: The rushing attack finished with 266 yards against Limestone. Adams led the ground game with 123 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns. Zacary Girard and Adam Lutz added 55 yards each and a touchdown run. 

Mount Zion Passing: First-team selections Ryne Buttz and Josh England, as well as second-team Mylin Mosley, will look to protect sophomore quarterback Makobi Adams. First-team quarterback Ashton Summers was lost to graduation. First-team receiver Christian Keyhea returns after a stellar junior track season where he was second in the state in the 100 meters. Adams threw for 124 yards on 9-of-14 passing and two touchdown passes. Keyhea caught eight passes for 116 yards and both touchdown receptions. 

“Our QB played well in the first game,” said Etherton. “He is lucky to have a veteran offensive line and some older kids at the skill positions.  This has helped his transition into the quarterback role.  He is a very good athlete and can make plays with his arm and his feet.” 

Mount Zion Defense: Mathias Adams returns as a two-way second-team selection at running back and linebacker. Frank Tyrolt led the defense with one interception last week. 

Miscellaneous: The weather predicted for Friday’s game is 74 degrees at kickoff with a humidity of 60% and winds at 7 mph. 

Mattoon Running Game: Mattoon finished the game with just 36 yards rushing on 26 attempts, which comes to 1.3 yards per rush. The Green Wave finished with four turnovers, three of which were fumbles. 

Mattoon Passing Game: Jackson Spurgeon played well by tossing 244 yards on 17-of-29 passing, including a 54-yard touchdown pass that gave Mattoon the 13-6 lead. 

Mattoon Defense: The Mattoon defense limited Triad to just 53 passing yards, but yielded 138 rushing yards. With that said, the Mattoon offense outgained Triad 280 to 191 in total yards. Triad was held to 2-for-8 on third-down conversions. 

What Mount Zion said: “Mattoon is always well-coached,” said Etherton. “Coach Johnson and Coach Kimbro do a great job of getting their kids prepared every week. Both Spurgeon kids are great football players and have had a lot of success over the past couple of years.  The Mattoon kids play hard and again are very well-coached.”

What Mattoon said: “I told the guys I am old enough to not worry about wins and losses,” said Johnson. “Just make sure we play hard all four quarters and have some fun. Hopefully, the wins will come. The hardest thing to fix on a football field is effort. Normally, you got it or you don’t. These kids play hard and they will do that the rest of the season. Everything outside of that is fixable.”