By Joe Gisondi

Mattoon coach Troy Johnson made a bold move in the final minutes Friday night against Taylorville.

With just over 2 minutes left in the game and ahead 12-9, the Green Wave faced fourth-and-1 at their own 35-yard line.

Johnson first told his team to try and draw Taylorville offsides to earn the first down with a penalty and subsequently run out the clock.

The Tornadoes were not fooled.

After calling a time out, Johnson sent his team out again – this time to actually run a play and earn the additional four downs, a risky scenario since Taylorville had just covered twice that many yards in about a minute to close the gap to 12-9. In fact, Taylorville quarterback Kamren Heimsness had run and thrown the ball fairly easily in the fourth quarter.

But Johnson did not care.

So he called the play.

And quarterback Jackson Spurgeon delivered, running off the left tackle behind a strong push by his offensive line to reach the 40-yard line and essentially secure what would be a 12-9 victory at EIU’s O’Brien Stadium.

The Green Wave earned their first victory in three games.

“I didn’t want them (Taylorville) to have the ball at all,” Mattoon coach Troy Johnson said. “They have enough athletes across the field that they were one play away or a heart beat away from scoring. So you’ve got the ball in your hands. Put it on your kids. We think we’ve got a pretty strong quarterback and we’ve got a lot of faith.”

It was Spurgeon’s second big play late in the game. He had tossed a perfect strike to Derrius White down the left sideline a few minutes earlier, hurling the ball about 40 yards in the air to his senior receiver. White, a step ahead of a Taylorville defender, caught the ball in full stride and then ran untouched the final 41 yards into the end zone with 3:56 remaining to make it 12-3. The PAT failed.

Jackson Spurgeon says he had a clean pocket on the decisive touchdown throw late in the fourth quarter.

Said Spurgeon: “I felt I had to put the ball wherever Derrius could get it.”

Mattoon had struggled to move the ball after taking possession on its own 2-yard-line with 7 1/2 minutes left in the game, ahead 6-2. An offsides penalty had forced MHS into a third-and-14 on its own 19-yard-line, setting up the long TD play.

“I like the deep balls,” White said. “When the ball was up in the air, I was just hoping to catch it and that it would stay in my hands. I ended up catching it and took it into the end zone.”

Mattoon compiled the bulk of its 124 rushing yards in a first half in which Taerick Grace gained 78 on 16 carries, nearly five yards an attempt.

Senior Kobe Cardwell picks off a Taylorville pass Friday at O’Brien Field during Mattoon’s win. (Photo/Dominic Baima)

Grace capped off a 79-yard, 12-play opening drive by running in untouched from 6 yards out to make it 6-0 with 7:14 left in the first quarter. The PAT was blocked.

Taylorville ran only seven offensive plays in the first quarter. But the Tornadoes scored a safety in the second quarter when the ball was hiked over Spurgeon’s head and rolled out the back of the end zone.



First Downs139
Total Yards269244
Rushing Yds12485
Rush Attempts4123
Yds per carry3.03.7
Passing Yds145159
Offensive Plays5648


RUSHING: Taerick Grace 21-85, Gavin Cline 5-20, Jackson Spurgeon 15-19.

RECEIVING: Matthew Gordon 3-15, Derrius White 2-92, Slater Trier 1-24, Gavin Cline 1-14.

PASSING: Jackson Spurgeon 7-for-15 145 yards.