Athletes and teams in Coles County excelled in gyms, ball fields, courts and tracks in 2022.

Lake Land College softball earned another berth at the national junior college tournament.

Several Mattoon High wrestlers earned medals at the state tournament.

The Green Wave girls basketball team reached a sectional championship.

This is just a sampling of the exciting, terrific accomplishments from local athletes this past year.

But these stories are not always the most popular among readers.

Two factors attract readers more than anything else everywhere across the country – local coverage and breaking news. In addition, breaking news = conflict, which is the driving force of any story across all genres, from news to fiction to movies to you name it. Readers typically also lean into interesting, or unusual, stories about interesting people. This is what happened locally as well.

Here are the top 10 most-read stories on our website from 2022. It’s been a pleasure serving you all this past year. Thanks for reading.

  1. Fight at Charleston-Mt. Zion football leads to 2 ejections. This was by far the most read story of the year, double the number of views of the third most-read story below. Perhaps only the players involved in the fight along the Braves’ sideline know exactly what happened. But even they could not see everything around them during the incident, which resulted in the ejection of two football players. The end result: Referees appeared to discharge Charleston’s Langdon King and Mt. Zion’s Chiren Petty after deliberating for about 10 minutes after the incident. We spoke with players, coaches, parents, broadcast announcers, school officials and our own reporters in an attempt to shed light on a fight that was viewed by several thousand people. We felt compelled to tell this story in order to dispel rumors and innuendos.
  2. Halsey returns to take over Charleston High football team. This was the only story to come (really) close to challenging the top story for readership. This was also our most-shared story on social media. Based on the reaction to this story, the community is thrilled for Brian Halsey’s return after an eight-year absence. Newton readers also eagerly dived into this story on the man who served as their offensive coordinator for seven years.
  3. CHS hires new coaches for boys basketball, volleyball, Trojans; girls hoop coach resigns. Our readers learned that Cody Drone stepped aside as head coach for the boys varsity basketball team after a single season in which the Trojans posted their first winning record in nine years. Drone left to return to Shelbyville. A.J. Alexander was among six new coaches hired at the school board meeting.
  4. ‘One of a kind’ Mary Buchar is retiring as CHS varsity dance coach after 35 years. Not every story focuses on action between the sidelines. Readers flocked to read and share a story about the school’s beloved dance coach stepping aside. “It’s just time,” said Buchar. “Time for me to move on and do something else. I’m 65 and I want to enjoy other things out there. I love what I do, but five years ago it was recommended that once I have 35 years, that is when it is time to retire.” Best wishes on retirement.
  5. Softball, family and community help Dalton McFarland be cancer-free 1 year later. We had posted a story about the Casey-Westfield softball coach’s fight with cancer a year earlier. It was a joy to read that the softball coach was doing well. “It was crazy. I couldn’t believe how much support I received,” said McFarland. “I will never forget the love and support from my family, friends, and the Casey-Westfield community, as well as the surrounding towns. And also the constant feeling of reassurance that I believe came from my faith in Christ. I don’t think I would have been able to get through this without the people around me supporting me.” It is also a pleasure to see that, in these divisive times, communities can rally together.
  6. Mattoon boys captured their only Charleston Holiday tourney in ’90 behind stellar freshman. This story, published near the end of the year, quickly attracted readers – perhaps because the story included many well-known local names and a freshman photo from MHS soccer coach Ryan Ghere. The story also reveals significant, warp-speed changes in technology. The main photo was in black and white. Yup, it looked like something you’d find on the wall of the Overlook. (Well, maybe not that creepy.) But no way at least dozens of people won’t have hundreds of color photos of current teams in 30 years. On the other hand, who knows how many can, or will, be saved – or if these now-vibrant photos will seem as antiquated as floppy disks and cassettes by then.
  7. Golf is a family affair for the state-bound Meister siblings. Both Hunter Meister, who had been the IESA middle school boys individual golf champion the year before, and his sister, Delaney, advanced to compete at the state tournament. Mattoon sibling golfers Blaine and Blair Powers also advanced to compete at the state tourney. Two unusual, neat stories.
  8. Charleston scores in final seconds to upend Mt. Zion, 30-27. The Trojans seemingly fell apart after a second-half fight along Mt. Zion’s sidelines that caused CHS’s talented DB Langdon King to get ejected along with a Mt. Zion player. Neither player seemed to be antagonists in the fight. But the Braves, nonetheless, took advantage of King’s absence and threw deep frequently, ultimately scoring 20 straight points to erase the Trojans’ 16-point fourth-quarter lead. But CHS rallied behind Jeremiah Hayes, who ramrodded his way downfield on both runs and after catching short passes, which led to the winning TD in the final seconds. An exhilarating game.
  9. With a No. 1 ranking, Mattoon players say Coach Aydt has them believing they can win a regional title, and more. The Green Wave did just that, taking the regional title. They also came within a play of winning the sectional title in regulation. The Green Wave lost in overtime, 72-68. The team finished 29-3.
  10. Jerry Payne steps down as Charleston High football team. Payne brought respect back to a CHS football program that had managed four wins during the previous five seasons. The team earned its first winning season since 2012 during the COVID spring season and rallied to win four straight games to end the 2022 campaign. This team is going to do well the next few seasons – thanks to Payne and his staff. He was also a professional – willing to speak candidly whether his team won or lost.

A close runner-up for No. 10 – Charleston stuns Mattoon for 1st win vs. rivals in 6 years, 4-2. There was a time when Charleston soccer dominated east central Illinois. For the past six years, Mattoon has been the dominant team in this rivalry. So when the Trojans beat their cross-county rivals in an early-season tournament, fans rushed to read the story. While few game stories are included in most-read lists for any news organization, it is just as important to cover games through the season in order to chronicle the history of our communities and to celebrate the efforts of those athletes who work hard, even if they play a few minutes or get just a few hits.

Best of luck to all our local athletes in 2023.