It’s been three weeks, but Charleston will finally have a full coaching staff on the sidelines. Head coach Jerry Payne is ready to start picking up the pace again as he said that this has been the best he has felt in weeks since his positive COVID-19 scare.

“Saturday morning was the best I have felt since August 27,” said Payne. “It’s time to keep it rolling.”

Charleston has lost three straight games and the schedule doesn’t get much easier. Mahomet-Seymour comes to Trojan Hill with a 4-0 record. Led by 2004 CHS graduate Jon Adkins, the Bulldogs are not only atop the Apollo Conference but have an opportunity to become playoff eligible for the first time since 2017. Here’s the preview for tonight’s game.

Team Records: Mahomet-Seymour (4-0, 3-0), Charleston (1-3, 0-3)

Past Results: Mahomet-Seymour has separated itself as the best team in the conference. After a 40-14 non-conference victory over Canton the first week of the season, the Bulldogs have buzzed through the conference schedule — a 37-7 victory over Effingham and a 53-22 win over Lincoln last week. Their most impressive win is from Week 3, a 35-27 thriller over Mount Zion.

“We are certainly off to a good start,” said Adkins. “I think it goes back to our spring season. We were able to get a lot of younger guys varsity reps and went 3-3 and lost three tough close games to three opponents who had a 17-1 combined record. I truly credit our spring season for the success we are having now.”

This will be the first time since the opener that the coaching staff at CHS will have all nine coaches present. The previous three matchups have seen Charleston have as few as four coaches on the sideline. Charleston has dropped games to Lincoln, Effingham, and Collinsville since its forfeit win over Robinson.

“I pulled the team together and took out a piece of paper and had one of my captains wad it up as tight as he could and offered him $1,000 if he could make it look like it did before,” said Payne. “Obviously, that can’t happen. The message is that what has happened in the last three weeks is over. We can sit on it and whine about how everything has been terrible, but we just need to move forward.”

Tickets: Tickets will be sold at the gate at Trojan Hill

School Size: Mahomet-Seymour (944), Charleston (796)

Kickoff: 7 p.m

Opponent’s History: From 2002 to 2014, Mahomet-Seymour qualified for the playoffs in each season, but the Bulldogs have not qualified since 2017. After Keith Pogue led the Bulldogs to an impressive 72-39 record in 11 years as head coach, the former CHS grad, Adkins, took over full time in 2019. His first full season as head coach featured a 4-5 record. Last year, the team finished 3-3 to give Adkins a 10-8 overall record if you include his wins this year. Before Mahomet-Seymour, Adkins coached at Peoria Heights from 2010 to 2015, where he recorded an 11-44 overall record rebuilding the program, which included a playoff appearance in his final season.

Mahomet-Seymour Running Game: The Bulldogs are led by sophomore Luke Johnson, who averages 4.5 yards a carry for 440 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. The second-leading rusher on the team is Quenton Rogers with just 69 rushing yards.

“Overall, we have great kids,” said Adkins. “They come to work every single day in practice and want to compete with each other and want to get better.”

Mahomet-Seymour Passing Game: The passing game is led by junior quarterback Wyatt Bohm, who has completed 54-of-95 passes for 1,030 yards, averaging 257.5 yards passing per game. His total QBR rating is 125.3 as he owns 10 touchdown passes to just one interception. As a team, the Bulldogs are averaging 41.3 points per game. The receiving team is led by dynamic duo Quenton Rogers (16 receptions, 322 yards, five touchdowns), and Dream Eagle-Morgan (19 receptions, 318 yards, three touchdowns). 

“Mahomet is going to be tough,” said Payne. “It seems like everyone in the conference there is that one really good receiver. They have two of them. Their running back stands above everyone else. They have a very good combination of running back and wide receiver. As an offense, they stay disciplined and get things done.”

Mahomet-Seymour Defense: The defense is led by junior Nick Golden, who owns a team-leading 27 tackles on the season and 11 recorded sacks. He is joined by senior Ashton Heiser (19 tackles), senior Mitchell Gallier (18 tackles), and junior Mateo Casillas (17 tackles) as leaders on defense. Senior Ethan Grindley has two of the team’s four interceptions

Miscellaneous: The weather is projected to be 70 degrees at kickoff with a humidity of 50% and a zero percent chance of rain. 

Charleston Rushing Game: Zayvion Johnson-Mitchell leads the team in rushing with 16 carries for 36 yards. Nate Shrader has 16 carries for 22 yards, while Jack Nelson owns 26 carries for minus-three yards and the only rushing touchdown.

Charleston Passing Game: Senior Jack Nelson has completed 27-of-51 passes for 353 yards, two touchdown passes, and one interception. Backup Nate Schrader completed 3-of-7 passes for 43 yards. Luke Nelson leads the team with two receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown. Hunter White added five receptions for 69 yards. Langdon King owns four receptions for 62 yards. Wade Wright owns two receptions for 59 yards. Schrader has also spent time at receiver with three receptions for 30 yards. Wyatt Strader recorded his first pair of receptions for 17 yards and a touchdown. 

Charleston Defense: The Trojans have struggled to stop the run. Charleston allowed 330 rushing yards to Effingham, including four rushing touchdowns. Then, Collinsville running back rushed for 215 yards, while Kolby Anderson added nine attempts for 87 yards. In three games, the Trojans have been outscored 105 to 20.

“Everyone needs to worry about trying to understand their jobs,” said Payne. “We had time to sit back and evaluate last week. We aren’t playing physically enough. That is something we can fix.”

What Mahomet-Seymour Said: “You know, honestly, stepping on Trojan Hill does bring back some great memories for me as a player,” said Adkins. “I’m not a player anymore. What means more to me is that our kids have a chance to continue on the path for the goals they set for this team at the beginning of the year. Number one, that’s a conference championship. Two, that’s making the playoffs. Friday night, a win would make us playoff eligible. That’s what matters to me the most.”

What Charleston Said: “The best we can do is compete to the best of our ability,” said Payne. “I’m not worried about the scoreboard. I’m only worried about how my team competes. We haven’t quit on the season. We have a good five weeks left. At this point of the season, all we have is a five-week season. We are going to go out and compete. I want them to be able to look back on high school football and remember what they enjoyed, the relationships, and the competition they gave out on the field.”