Both teams got a taste of victory last week after tough starts to the schedule. Somebody is leaving Effingham High with a .500 record for the season. Will the Green Wave or Hearts prevail? Take a look at tonight’s Week 4 Apollo Conference matchup.

Team Records: Mattoon (1-2, 1-0) @ Effingham (1-2, 1-0)

Past Results: Effingham owns a 37-7 loss to Mahomet-Seymour in Week 2, while in Week 1 Effingham was defeated by Decatur St. Teresa 42-7. Effingham earned its first win with a 42-0 takedown over Charleston at Trojan Hill. Mattoon started the year with a 26-13 loss to Troy Triad and then a 31-7 loss to Mount Zion. Mattoon defeated Taylorville 12-9 in a thrilling victory last week.

“Losing can be a habit, but so can winning,” said Mattoon coach Troy Johnson. “That is what we are trying to convince the team. It’s easier to fix mistakes on a win than a loss it seems like. You learn a lot more when you lose a game when you are looking at critical errors to fix. However, a win is always better.”

Tickets: Tickets will be sold at the gate at Effingham High School. 

School Size: Mattoon (929), Effingham (736)

Kickoff: 7 p.m

Opponent’s History: Head coach Brett Hefner enters his seventh season with the Hearts. He owns a 42-22 overall record, which includes a Final Four appearance in 2019. Had COVID-19 not taken away the playoffs, Effingham might have returned to the Final Four last year, which included winning the Apollo Conference. Last year, Effingham defeated Mattoon 28-0.

“He’s a really good coach that was going to get them turned around after a rough start to the season,” said Johnson. “They played some good competition to open the year. Mahomet-Seymour has some really good athletes. Their first two games were quite a challenge. It’s not like they were playing any pushovers. They were playing some good football teams.”

Effingham Running Game: Effingham is led by junior running back John Westendorf, who has 52 carries for 332 yards, about 6 yards a carry. That includes 171 yards rushing against Charleston last week. Junior quarterback Tanner Pontious is second on the team with 42 carries for 116 yards. As a team, the Hearts average 202.7 yards rushing per game.

“Stopping the run, that’s a good question,” said Johnson. “I wish I knew really what that answer is. We are going to play our stuff and have to be physically upfront. Effingham is always physical. They are going to do what they have to do, but we just need to play hard.”

Effingham Passing Game: Pontious has completed 13-of-30 passes for 194 yards with two touchdowns and one interception through three complete games. The Hearts average 67 yards passing per game. 

Effingham Defense: Effingham is coming off their first shutout of the season by holding the Trojans to zero points. Dalton Fox leads the team with 23 tackles, while Logan Heil adds 22 tackles. Max Nelson has the lone sack this season. Connor Thompson and Charlie Ring add a fumble recovery.

Miscellaneous: The weather is projected to be 73 degrees at kickoff with a humidity of 83% and a three percent chance of rain. 

Mattoon Running Game: Taeriek Grace has led the Green Wave rushing in two of the three games. Grace had his best outing on the season with 21 carries for 85 yards last week. In two games, Grace owns 27 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Jackson Spurgeon has found little running room. One week after carrying the ball 12 times for 16 yards, Spurgeon was again limited to 19 yards on 15 carries. Last week, Gavin Cline added 20 yards on five carries.

Mattoon Passing Game: Against Taylorville, Spurgeon was limited in the passing game by completing just 7-of-15 passes for 145 yards. Spurgeon has completed 25 of 62 passes this season for 389 passing yards with two touchdown passes and two interceptions.

Mattoon Defense: One week after allowing Mount Zion to outgain Mattoon 318-181, yeh Green Wave limited Taylorville to just 85 rushing yards. Mattoon held Taylorville to 244 yards of total offense with 159 coming in the air. Mattoon forced Taylorville to commit two turnovers.

What Effingham Said: Head coach Brett Hefner was unavailable for comment. 

What Mattoon Said: “Each game, each week is different,” said Johnson. “Each week, we have an opportunity to win a game. We want to be in a position in the fourth quarter and then find a way to get it done. There are no slouches in this league. We made a lot of mistakes last week and those are going to have to be cleaned up because the football teams we are playing, we can’t afford to make a lot of mistakes that we did, so we have to fix the things we can control.”