Count senior defensive end Riley Spencer (pictured above) among those who embrace changes under new head football coach Jarad Kimbro, a longtime assistant entering his first season as the team’s leader.
“Coach Kimbro has already created a stronger football culture,” said Spencer. “Our numbers are up and kids are excited to play. Coach’s energy transfers to us players and we’ve seen that in practice.”
Spencer said the team’s offseason has been aimed at strength training, agility, and improving the team’s overall athleticism. Right now, the team has been looking to find out who is going to fill the void of four players who made All-Apollo, as well as 14 graduated seniors.
“After losing some important roles from the team, we’ve seen younger guys step up,” said Spencer. “They know they have to work for positions and we have seen them do that. I believe they will be capable of filling those roles we need.”
Mattoon is coming off of a 3-6 season that included a 3-3 mark in the Apollo Conference.
Among the losses – Mattoon led a playoff-bound Troy Triad 13-6 after three quarters before losing the game 26-13.
Mattoon missed out on several opportunities in a loss to another playoff-bound team, Collinsville, in a 28-22 loss.
Their season also included a 35-34 loss to Lincoln while holding an 11-1 Final Four Mahomet-Seymour team to 18 points in an 18-0 loss during the regular season.
A few bounces or plays appeared to make a big difference.
Spencer hopes this team can make the “what if” question go away and that the Green Wave can make the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
“I would like to see the team have a winning record at the end of the year – and making playoffs is, of course, a big goal, too,” said Spencer. “With all the hard work that we as a team are putting in, I believe we can win games this year. If we can put all the pieces together then we have the potential to make playoffs.”