MATTOON — With 11 seconds to go in the first half, Mt. Zion had the ball at the 1-yard line looking like it was about to score on the Wave and cut the 17-7 deficit before going into the locker room.
Braves quarterback Matt Carpenter attempted a run to the right side but was stonewalled by the Green Wave's front as time appeared to expire in the half.
Key word: appeared.
Mt. Zion called its final timeout with one second left, giving them one more shot to score.
The Braves came out of the break with three wide receivers split to the left, which didn't sit well with Mattoon, so the Wave spent their final timeout in the half.
With the atmosphere thick with suspense, Mattoon took the field with their backs against the wall.
Carpenter took the snap, saw nobody open, so he took an alley up the middle and started to curve left, but the middle of Mattoon's defense converged on the Braves sophomore signal caller and dropped him before he reached paydirt.
The excitement would only be a precursor to the second half's play.
"The kids came out and played hard and made a great stand," Mattoon head coach Troy Johnson stated. "Anytime you have a play like that it is great and gives momentum moving forward."
On Mt. Zion's first drive of the second half, they found and attacked a weakness of the Wave: the deep pass and went on to exploit it en route to a 26-17 conference win.
After Carpenter missed Dawson Johns on a fly route on the Mattoon sideline, the Braves ran the ball and moved down the field before a 35-yard touchdown strike came with 6:09 to go in the quarter.
The Green Wave offense looked like it would be able to get something going on several drives in the second half, but each time either penalties, tackles for loss or turnovers--two interceptions and a fumble in the second half--got in the Wave's way.
The fumble came after the Wave recovered a fumble off a botched exchange between Carpenter and a man in motion on a fly sweep.
The Mattoon defense gave a valiant effort throughout the game--Garrett Branson registered a sack and tackle for loss, Brock Smith absolutely laid out a Braves receiver to force a fourth down in the third quarter, along with Michael Brown's 60-yard interception return for a touchdown to start scoring in the first half--but was unable to keep Mount Zion out of the end zone late.
On 4th and 11 with 6:04 in the game, Carpenter found Johns on an 11-yard slant route for a touchdown, the lead and eventually victory.
"This week was definitely our best defensive performance," Johnson closed. "We have some things we need to work on before Taylorville comes in next week but we are getting better."
The Tornadoes come to Mattoon for the Wave's homecoming and Senior night game Friday.