MATTOON -- Today’s Mattoon High School Homecoming football game will simply be that for some in the stands.
But for longtime fan Dean Coleman, it will be the end of an era.
Coleman of Mattoon could be described as a superfan. A consecutive season ticket holder since 1954, he has tried to make sure he attends as many Mattoon games as he could, home or away games. High school ball had simply become ingrained in his life.
"It has become a way of life," he said.
A closed highway would not even stop him. Coleman said he remembers speeding through Interstate 57 a while back to reach a game.
At the time, the road work had finished up on the highway but it was not open.
Stuck at work, Coleman could not leave for the 7 p.m. game until 7:15 p.m. He and his wife were determined, skirting bridges to get to the game.
“My wife was more dedicated. It was her little boy who was playing,” he said.
He had to make the game at Champaign Central, though. And just in time, they made it to the field right as the game kicked off.
Even now, rain, cold, and a bad back have done little to stop the 89-year-old from attending each home game and getting a chance to call out a bad call by a referee or coach.
“Some people have said that maybe I could tone it down a little,” Coleman said.
The animated sports fan has become a fixture in seat 16 in section B, row 6, in the bleachers during the games.
But after today, his spot will be vacant.
The longtime Mattoon resident is moving the 720 miles away from Mattoon to Pennsylvania to be with family.
“I don't have anyone left here at all,” he said, and it has become problematic living alone at his age.
And as time draws closer to game time, Coleman said he has had mixed feelings thinking about his last Mattoon game.
“It is an adjustment,” Coleman said. “I didn't realize how much of a psychological difference it was going to make.”
His large bank of memories from each game has flooded back to him, such as when he was in high school watching the Mattoon team get stuck just short of touchdown until a fullback ripped off his helmet and ran through the defensive line for the score.
“I’ll never forget it,” he said.
Despite the significance of this game tonight, Coleman said he plans on treating it like any game. He will arrive at 6 or 6:30 p.m and stay locked on the game.
“I might have rib-eye steak sandwich instead of a hot dog,” he said, to mark the occasion.
He only hopes that he will see MHS win his last game as a Green Wave fan. It will be tough, though. Taylorville High School has had a much better season, however, Mattoon was able to come out on top last year in their Homecoming game against the same opponent.
Even when Coleman leaves, he plans on continuing to watch high school football, trading in the Green Waves for the Green Castle Blue Devils.
“There will be someone there I can argue with,” he said.