By Mike Monahan

Mattoon’s Jarad Kimbro will face off against a former EIU football teammate for the first time as a head coach when the Green Wave take on Taylorville in an Apollo Conference matchup Friday night.

Kimbro, a Mattoon grad, had been an assistant for the Green Wave for 18 years. Jeb Odam has been head coach for THS for 13 years.

Mattoon has won the last two meetings, 12-9 last season and 19-14 in the spring of 2021. 

“We have kept in touch over the years and we do anything for each other,” said Kimbro. “It is good to have another person in the conference, if you have questions or what not.”

Mattoon has lost to Troy Triad 41-22 and to Mt. Zion 42-21 last week. 

“I thought we played a much more physical game than a week ago,” said Kimbro. “Up front was drastically better on both sides. We got our running game going a little bit (35 for 162 and a touchdown) We played good defense. Even though the score doesn’t really show that we took a step in the right direction.”

Taylorville, who was 2-7 last year and 0-5 in the conference, lost to Mt. Vernon 40-0 before beating Elgin St. Edward’s 24-21. 

“We strung together just enough plays to get the win,” said Odam. “St. Ed’s played hard and physical, dictated the tempo to a degree, and forced us to make plays. We made one more than they did.”

Taylorville returns just three starters on offense and three on defense from last season. 

Here is the preview for tonight’s game: 

TEAM RECORDS: Mattoon (0-2, 0-1), Taylorville (1-1, 0-0)

PAST RESULTS: Last season, quarterback Jackson Spurgeon gave the Green Wave the lead for good on an 81-yard touchdown pass to Darrius White at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Field with 3:56 left in the game for a 12-3 lead. Taerick Grace had put the Green Wave on the board first with a six-yard run. He finished with 78 yards on 16 carries in the first half. He finished with 21 carries for 85 yards. Spurgeon’s five-yard run on a fourth and one with just over two minutes left to seal the victory. Sprugeon was 7-of-15 for 145 yards. 

TICKETS: Sold at the entrance to the Taylorville turf football field

SCHOOL SIZES: Mattoon 929; Taylorville 756

KICKOFF: 7 p.m.

WEATHER: 68 degrees and cloudy. Seven mph winds out of the east/southeast. 

OPPONENT HISTORY: Odam, a former Taylorville quarterback has been the head coach at his alma mater for 13 years, plus an additional eight as an assistant. Odam has coached the Tornadoes to a 74-53 record in 13 years, including seven straight playoff appearances (one in Class 5A) and three quarterfinal (2014, 2015 and 2018) appearances and seven .500 or better seasons. 

Since the Tornadoes joined the Apollo Conference in 2014 the two teams have met eight times with Taylorville leading the series 5-3 by an average score of 29-16.

TAYLORVILLE RUSHING GAME: The Tornadoes have struggled with their running game as they have a total of 32 carries for 29 yards. They have had a plethora of players that have carried the ball (nine). Sophomore Cayden Tirpak (6-foot, 135-pound) had just two carries for 13 yards and senior Seth Hughes had 15 carries for 12 yards and a touchdown. 

“We do a little bit of both,” said Odam of running and passing. “We try to take what the defense is giving us.”

Said Kimbro: “They try and give the best opportunity for success. In doing that they require us to prepare for that and that takes time. The kids have to be confident in what they are doing and seeing.”

TAYLORVILLE’S PASSING GAME: The coach’s son, sophomore Baron Odam (6-2, 150) has completed 17-of-38 for 229 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown. His top receiver is sophomore Finn Niemann (5-10, 155)

Odam is a pretty good passer,” said Kimbro. “Given time ,he can really do some damage.”

TAYLORVILLE’S DEFENSE: The Tornadoes average 12 points per game, while allowing 30.5. 

“They play an odd front and disguise coverages,” said Kimbro. “That is part of what they are. They give us a lot of looks and we have to prepare a lot.”

MATTOON’S RUSHING: Sophomore Deaiden Arnold  (5-11, 185) and senior Grace (6-3, 200) lead the way with 31 carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns and 13 carries for 80 yards, respectively. 

MATTOON’S PASSING GAME: Senior Slater Trier, (6-0, 140) has completed 29 of 62 passes for 321 yards, three interceptions and four touchdowns. The top receiver is junior Owen Hawkins (5-11, 175) with 14 catches for 162 yards and three touchdowns. 

“Offensively, they have two quarterbacks in the system with different skill sets, we are concerned about who will be behind center and what style do we prepare for,” said Odam. 

“Slater has to manage the game,” said Kimbro. “He did a good job against Triad, but fell off a little bit last week, but I think we have things squared away where he can do good things Friday. We need to keep them off the field and do good things and have a chance coming down in the fourth quarter.”

MATTOON’S DEFENSE: Junior Aiden Blackburn (5-8, 145) leads the team with eight tackles, including three tackles for a loss. 

“Their defensive pressure is the main concern about Mattoon,” said Odam. “They really get after the quarterback and they don’t care who knows they are blitzing and from where. They just try to overwhelm you.”

Kimbro said, When you give up 350 yards it is a little issue (defensively). We have got it fixed. It has been a big part of our coaching the last two weeks. We definitely need to improve that facid of our game. It is not a kid issue. We have not put them in the best opportunity to be successful. “WHAT ODAM SAID: “It does help to be home and having a big homecoming crowd helps as well. On the flip side is the “wreck their homecoming” aspect that I am sure coach Kimbro is playing up. Winning a varsity football game is hard! It doesn’t matter if it is the home opener or the last game of the year. We just try to find a way to have more points.”

Adam says his player need to get more reps in game situations. “We are trying to slow the game down for them mentally while still presenting challenging practices has been hard. Trying to replicate Mattoon’s pressure will be difficult as well.”

Taylorville is battling injuries to their rotation guys. 

“I think developing some consistency on drives is big for us,” said Odam. “We can’t punt four possessions in a row. We need to find a way to move the ball and get some scoring chances on a regular basis. The keys to victory are finding a way to run the football effectively and find a way to control the ball. We simply cannot get behind the chairs too often and let Mattoon pin their ears back. Defensively, we have to win first down and make them one dimensional.”

WHAT KIMBRO SAID: “We went back  and the good thing about the whole deal was there was a silver lining in that we played with heart and the desire was all there. We had some coaching points to get things corrected and we took care of that. We know Taylorville will give us our best shot. They are well coached, physical and scrappy. All of the things we want in a ball club. We have to bring our ‘A’ game or they will put it on us.” 

Mattoon scored first against Mt. Zion. 

“The drive started after an interception by defensive lineman senior Kaden Junge (6-3, 210) on a screen pass. Taylorville wants to get out of the gate strong and they rely on their running game. Slater has to manage the game. He did a good job against Triad, but fell off a little bit last week, but I think we have things squared away where he can do good things Friday. We need to keep them off the field and do good things and have a chance coming down in the fourth quarter.”

As for the keys to victory, Kimbro said, “It comes down to ball control. We have to keep their offense off the field. They can make things happen in a hurry. The less time the better off we will be.”