Story by Will Simmons • Photos by Chet Piotrowski

Mattoon varsity football was unable to adjust to Triad’s multi-faceted offense, and lost 41-22 in its first game of the season Friday night at their renovated stadium.

The Knights spread out their offense by using the option, using play-action by quarterback Nic Funk, who had a team-best 60 rushing yards, in an overall approach that surprised MHS coach Jarad Kimbro

“They came out and threw the ball around on us a lot more than we expected,” Kimbro said. “Over seven years, they’ve only thrown the ball, like 20 times, and they threw it 25 or 26 times on us tonight. We struggled with that mightily.”

Triad coach Paul Bassler said he saw a definite improvement from the team’s offensive shortcomings of the past. Triad compiled 194 rushing yards and 201 passing yards, averaging 8.2 yards per play against Mattoon.

“Whether it was lack of receivers, or lack of a quarterback or we just didn’t feel comfortable with our offensive line,” Bassler said, “we just haven’t been able to put it in the air. But I feel like we have a good combination this year. We definitely have (Funk) who can throw it. (Sophomore QB Isaac Ackerman) is equally as good, who doubles as a receiver, and so I feel real good about being diverse, and it makes it a little more tougher on defenses.”

The Green Wave had a shaky start.

On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Slater Trier had to chase down a ball from the shotgun that had skimmed past his head before he was able to gather it a yard shy of rolling into the end zone. Mattoon’s possession would end in a punt three downs later, giving Triad the ball, which remained in its half of the field.

The Knights needed five plays, the last one an option on second-and-goal from Funk to running back Colin Qualls, who caught the flip and ran it in for a touchdown less than three minutes into the first quarter.

Mattoon had two costly turnovers in the second quarter. The first came when the Green Wave had the ball on second-and-10 at the 19-yard-line and Trier threw a ball to the right corner of the end zone that ended up in the Knights’ Aiden Blackburn’s hands for a touchback.

While that possession for Triad concluded with a punt, Mattoon wide receiver Logan Blackburn was unable to secure the return, bobbling the ball before Triad fell on it at the 32-yard-line. Triad responded by scoring a TD on the short field, making it 14-0 with 5:43 left in the second quarter.

Mattoon varsity head coach Jared Kimbro high fives Logan Blackburn in the second half of the Knights 41-22 victory over the Green Wave Friday evening at Mattoon HIgh School.

Green Wave offensive lineman/linebacker TJ Owens said the struggles the team had early is something they will have to work on moving forward.

“I feel like we didn’t get going on the offensive side of the ball,” he said. “We had some bad placement as a defense, early, but we gotta respond and that’s one thing we gotta work on. When you get punched in the mouth, you gotta respond.”

Mattoon did respond in the second half, though not before Triad racked up a 28-0 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.

A minute later, the Green Wave scored when Trier threw a pass to wide receiver Owen Hawkins, who had nine receptions for 117 yards, down the middle about 30 yards from their goal line. Hawkins bobbled the ball with Triad defensive back Rylee Hansen all over him, yet remarkably Hawkins was able to secure the ball and run past defenders into the end zone.

Mattoon followed up its touchdown with another stellar play during a two-point conversion when the football was slapped from the line of scrimmage past the goal line where, through the chaos, offensive lineman Cayden Kniermim fell on it to get the points.

The Green Wave scored their next two touchdowns in the final four minutes of the game.

On their own 14-yard-line, Trier connected with wide receiver Logan Blackburn for the TD.

Three plays after they recovered a fumble from Triad, Trier snuck in on a goal line play.

Kimbro said he was encouraged by his team’s play in the second.

“The kids are awesome,” Kimbro said. ‘’They came out and I couldn’t be more proud of the way they compete. So that’s a good start to what we’re trying to build, and we’re heading in the right direction.”