This is hands-down the biggest week of the season for both the Mattoon Green Wave and Lincoln Railsplitters. A win will keep one team alive for playoff aspirations, while the other will likely fall out of contention. Both teams enter tonight’s game at 2-3.
“We have to come out, play hard, be physical, and have some fun,” said Mattoon coach Troy Johnson. “They have got some good players. You don’t play too many slouches in the Apollo. We have to have the same attitude every week.
Here is tonight’s preview.
Team Records: Mattoon (2-3, 2-1), Lincoln (2-3, 1-2)
Past Results: Mattoon is coming off a tough 28-22 loss to a 5-0 Collinsville team that became playoff eligible with the win. Mattoon started the year with a 26-13 loss to Troy Triad and then a 31-7 loss to Mount Zion. The team’s last two wins have been thrillers with a 12-9 come from behind win over Taylorville in Week 3 and a 20-14 win over former Apollo champ Effingham in Week 4.
Lincoln began the season with two wins over Clinton (58-6) and Charleston (14-6) but has lost three in a row. That includes a 32-16 loss to Jerseyville, 53-22 to Apollo frontrunner Mahomet-Seymour, and a 27-22 nailbiter to Mount Zion last week.
“They played very well against Mt. Zion,” said Johnson. “We watched that film. They are a feisty team and will not back down for anyone. Their numbers are down like everyone else, but they play hard and we are going to have to be ready to play.”
Tickets: Tickets will be sold at Lincoln High School
School Size: Mattoon (929), Lincoln (810)
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Opponent’s History: Lincoln finished 0-6 last season and hasn’t recorded a winning football season since 1986. Head coach Matt Silkowski enters his fifth season as head coach. He owns an overall 12-29 mark.
Lincoln Running Game: No full stats are available. The team is led by Ki’on Carson, who recorded 16 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown against Charleston. Isaac Decker recorded 12 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown in that game as well. Tony Gandolfi recorded 10 carries for 50 yards.
Lincoln Passing Game: Lincoln appears to rely steadily on the run. No full team stats were available. Elijah Police completed 9-of-16 passes for 108 yards against Charleston.
Lincoln Defense: Lincoln returns no players that made All-Apollo from last year. The six points allowed against Clinton and Charleston were the lowest in over a year. However, the team has allowed over 20 points in three straight losses.
Miscellaneous: The weather is projected to be 73 degrees at kickoff with a humidity of 62% and a 15% chance of rain.
Mattoon Running Game: Taeriek Grace has led the Green Wave in four of the five games. Grace owns a career-high of 95 yards in Week 4. In four games, Grace has compiled 265 yards on 52 carries for a touchdown. Quarterback Jackson Spurgeon has rushed 58 times for 114 yards. In his last three games, Gavin Cline has added 11 carries for 47 yards.
Mattoon Passing Game: Against Collinsville, Spurgeon completed 13-of-21 passes for 197 yards and three touchdown passes. It was the best game of Spurgeon’s season. On the year, Spurgeon has completed 51 of 104 passes this season for 820 passing yards with six touchdown passes and three interceptions. For the second straight game, wideout Derrius White recorded a 100-yard game with six receptions for 120 yards. In his last two games, White has recorded 13 receptions for 264 yards receiving.
“Mattoon’s quarterback is a great player and we know we have to do our best to control the damage he can cause,” said Silkowski.
Mattoon Defense: Mattoon struggled against the run against Effingham, allowing 189 yards, as well as 274 passing yards. With that said, the defense forced six total turnovers. The following week, Mattoon continued to struggle against the run by allowing 303 rushing yards and 523 yards of total offense. In the end, the team was only defeated by just six points.
“They are playing hard,” said Johnson. “We will make mistakes like any other team, but we will continue to play hard and let the cards fall where they fall. As long as we are physical and play hard, that normally gives you a chance to win.”
What Lincoln Said: “We have a lot of respect for Mattoon and what kind of team they are,” said Silkowski. “Our kids have been great and are proud of the way they keep responding to our losses.”
What Mattoon Said: “[Playoffs] is something we talk about,” said Johnson. “Normally, we talk about it early and then I don’t spend a lot of time with it. It has been mentioned. We have to win some games down the stretch. The kids want to play in a playoff game after the regular season. If they keep giving us the effort to do it, we should be a playoff team. We just need to start hitting on all cylinders and not continue to shoot ourselves in the foot.”