By Joe Gisondi
Mattoon quarterback Jackson Spurgeon never gave it a second thought.
Less than a minute after teammate Derrius White let a go-ahead touchdown pass deflect off his hands in the end zone, the senior fired another pass to the typically sure-handed receiver.
White tapped the pass from Spurgeon up in the air, grabbed it over a CHS defender and held onto the football as he fell into the left corner of the end zone with about 5:35 left in the game to put Mattoon ahead 32-27.
The Green Wave subsequently stopped the Trojans on three plays and ran out the clock to win the Coles County Clash at EIU’s O’Brien Stadium, returning the rivalry trophy back to MHS before an announced crowd of more than 7,000.
“We all mistakes,” Spurgeon said. “I know I got to throw it to my guy Derrius. He’s gonna make a play. That’s all I count on. And he made a great play.”
White caught five passes overall for 98 yards, 2 yards shy of earning his third 100-plus receiving game. As a defensive back, White also broke up two deep passes that helped shut down drives earlier in the game.
“I just needed to get the ball,” White said of the final play. “They say you have to forget the last play, but I get in my head sometimes. But I heard the coaches on the sidelines cheering for me, so I just let it go and did what I had to do.”
The 13-yard TD reception capped an 11-play, 66-yard drive that took 4:31 – and which followed a 12-yard TD run by Nate Shrader that had put Charleston ahead, 27-26.
“He’s a hard-working kid and he’s got good hands,” Mattoon coach Troy Johnson said. “You’re just waiting for him to make that big play, and he did.”
The Green Wave have now won this cross-county football game eight of the past 10 years since the rivalry renewed in 2012 after a a nearly four-decade hiatus. Mattoon leads the series 22-5-1.
It was the second closest game in the series – behind only CHS’s 20-18 win in 1984.
“What a great atmosphere,” said Johnson. “What a great day for high school football. I appreciate the Charleston fans and the Mattoon fans. They’re what creates this atmosphere that we got to play in tonight.”
Charleston took an early lead in the first quarter on two turnovers. After recovering a fumble at Mattoon’s 19-yard line, quarterback Jack Nelson ran up the middle on a keeper to cap the four-play drive.
Langdon King then pick off a pass while in midstride and raced alone 50 yards for the score and make out 14-0.
Spurgeon responded to that mistake by rallying the Green Wave to three successive scores. He first threw a pass that arced over a defender to White, who raced the final 20 yards for a 39-yard score with 1:56 left in the first quarter.
Spurgeon then ran 2 yards cup the middle early in the second quarter to cut Mattoon’s deficit to 14-12 and trick Grace veered into the left side of the end zone from 9 yards with 1:35 left in the half. Spurgeon evaded defenders to run in for the two-point
Spurgeon completed 13 of 20 passes for 194 yards and ran for another 68 on 14 runs.
The two teams then fought back and forth, leading up to the decisive reception in the final minutes.
Jack Nelson threw 24 yards to a wide-open Wyatt Strader, who walked in for a score to make it 21-20.
Spurgeon ran in from 4 yards out to put MHS ahead 26-21.
But Nate Shrader then ran 12 yards with 10:17 left in the game to put the Trojans ahead 27-26.
“They (Mattoon) brought their best and we could not stand up to them,” CHS coach Jerry Payne said. “I was frustrated trying to get the right play called. I’ll take the blame.”
MORE: Check out our Instagram and Facebook pages for post-game interviews, video and photo from the game. We’ll have more later today.