By Kyle Daubs

Ryan Ghere reminisced about how he was “lucky” enough to live through four Charleston High School soccer coaches. 

Then, he laughed and realized he counted wrong as there are two generations of Stranz, which means his total is up to five. 

Hank Nino, Paul Stranz, Dave Dunlap, Josh Garrett, and Stranz’s son and current head coach Zach Stranz have all led Charleston programs since Ghere took over the Mattoon soccer program in 1998. Tonight’s match at Paul Stranz Soccer Field will be the last time that Ghere travels and coaches the sidelines in this longtime rivalry. 

“There hasn’t been a game that stands out to me over the years,” said Ghere. “What stands out to me is how we have played with each other all over the place. We have played at Hi-Cone, Sister City, and now they have their field. I’ve lived through five coaches and each of them is unique and interesting.”

The coach that stands out the most would be the older Stranz, who coached CHS boys soccer from 2000-14. Ghere holds a 22-26-2 career mark against Charleston, but there was a time when that was not close to being an average record. 

From 1998 to 2012, a span of 15 years, Ghere’s record against the Trojans was 3-22-2. That included two wins in the 2012 season, with the one win against the Trojans in the infamous Sectional Championship where the Green Wave upset the Trojans to make the state tournament. 

Historically known for his passionate halftime speeches, there was another passionate coach on the other side in Stranz. Often, you could see one or the other barking at players, officials, and sometimes each other. In the end, the two were always supportive of each other off of the field. 

“Some people probably saw some heated moments from us, but I think we were just both a lot alike,” said Ghere. “We are both super competitive and both loyal to our school. You want to beat the rival. Sometimes games got heated, but I think we both understood that it was a rivalry. Once the game was over, we went back to being friends.”

Still, with three wins in 15 years, Ghere isn’t going to say it was always a happy feeling during that time.

“Those were some frustrating years,” said Ghere. “Charleston was ahead of us at the time. They had the club team. We didn’t. The 2003 year was the first time we had ever beaten them since I started coaching. After that, several years had a big edge on us in wins. It’s been probably eight years since we (have) flipped the script and won some more games.”

Since 2013, the Green Wave owns a 19-4-0 record against the Trojans.

Both teams will look to battle it out once again. Charleston defeated Mattoon 4-2 earlier in the season.

Both teams are hanging onto the balance of securing a winning season. Charleston is 4-7-1 and 2-2 in the Apollo, while Mattoon is 5-7-1 and 3-5 in the conference. 

That rivalry feeling will be something that Ghere is going to miss when he steps away later this year, after coaching the Mattoon girls in the spring.

“The prep that goes into it is something I will miss,” said Ghere. “Seeing the kids before the game is just different. We played a game last week and the kids were loose. When we play them, there’s a little more tension on some kids’ faces because this one means more to them, and they are going to want to win that game as much as I do. Hopefully, we beat them tomorrow. It’s always more fun when the two teams are equal to each other. It’s going to make for a great game everyone in the area wants to see.”