By Nick Bays
Ryan Ghere won his last boys soccer game at Charleston as coach of the Mattoon boys Thursday night, a 2-0 victory at Paul Stranz Field.
But Ghere said the game means just as much to his senior players.
“It’s not all about me,” said Ghere, who is retiring from coaching at the end of the school year. “We talked about it at halftime, that it was the seniors’ last game here, too. So we wanted to win that one for them as well. A good way to go out.”
One of those seniors was Green Wave captain and defender Quentin Wright, who contributed heavily to Mattoon’s defense and thwarted many attempts by the Charleston attack.
“I’ve played for long enough. You just got to know where to be,” said Wright.
The win puts Mattoon on equal footing with Charleston in the Apollo Conference at 4-5.
Mattoon would first score off a throw-in by Ty Eastin with 18 minutes left in the first half that was bobbled in the air before eventually being sent into the back of the Trojans’ net. The Green Wave then scored in the second half with 23 minutes left off a corner sent in by Parker Masse.
“They kept giving us set pieces close to the goal,” said Ghere. “We found a way.”
Mattoon had a flurry of corners in both halves that kept Charleston having to play close to their own goal throughout much of the game.
Charleston’s offense had exciting chances in both halves where it looked as if it would tie the contest back up, but the Trojans were unable to find success once they entered Mattoon’s territory.
“I think we had good possession, but it wasn’t in the attacking half,” said Charleston coach Zack Stranz. “We kept trying to go straight forward or when we would go to the corner, we weren’t getting quality balls crossed to the middle. So I think that was limiting our chances.”
Stranz said Mattoon did a good job of limiting the effect of Charleston’s speed and not letting the his players create chances through quick play.
The rivalry between the two teams has heated up this season. Charleston beat Mattoon back in August, 4-2, for the first time in six years.
“It definitely stings, especially when losing to Mattoon. One of the biggest rivalries we have all year,” said Charleston senior and team captain Brandon Jones. “I think we started a little flat-footed. Two unlucky goals. Should’ve been a 0-0 game.”
Charleston and Mattoon now have identical records in the conference at 4-5 records in the Apollo, keeping them in the middle of the pack. With both teams entering the final stretches of their seasons, the result here was very important as both try to finish strong.
Both teams will end their regular seasons Oct. 13 as Mattoon hosts Charleston for one final showdown before the postseason.
“That’s the one game I have in my calendar,” said Jones. “Every game is important, but Mattoon games are the ones you look forward to weeks in advance.”
“It’ll be on home turf,” said Wright. “And with the new turf, it’ll be a whole lot different, too.”
Both Stranz and Ghere expressed excitement, as well, for the rematch. Ghere looks to send the seniors off on a good note for Mattoon’s senior night while Stranz is looking to potentially sour the mood of the Green Wave’s senior celebration.
The next two matches for Mattoon include a road game against Effingham on Sept. 27 before returning home to host Lincoln Oct. 1. For Charleston, they’re on the road versus Richland County Sept. 27 before returning home to host Lincoln Sept. 29.