MATTOON — The playoffs are out of reach for Mattoon as the Green Wave go into Friday's contest against Effingham. The loss to Taylorville last week put Mattoon's record at 2-5, eliminating them from the playoffs. But the Green Wave can still have an impact on the playoffs.
Effingham, which is 6-1 overall, has already won a share of the Apollo Conference title with a 5-0 record. A win clinches the full share of the title, but a loss puts Effingham in a potential tie with Taylorville if the Tornadoes win on Friday. Plus a loss to Mattoon would affect Effingham's playoff seed.
The key to stopping the Class 4A No. 7-ranked Flaming Hearts is slowing down running back Terrence Hill, who is Effingham's career rushing leader. Hill has already rushed for 1,424 yards on 205 carries for a 6.9 yards-per-carry average. He has rushed for 22 touchdowns and averages 203.4 yards per game.
"He is obviously an extremely good player," Mattoon coach Troy Johnson said. "He has a good combination of speed and power."
Hill has been helped by a solid offensive line this season, too.
"They are as big as we have seen all year and do a great job of running the scheme they are asked to run," Johnson said.
The Green Wave are coming off maybe their best defensive performance of the season. Last week against Taylorville, Mattoon held the Tornadoes offense scoreless through three quarters. The only points Taylorville had were because of a safety. The Tornadoes did score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter for a 16-6 win, but the 16 points were the fewest Mattoon allowed in a game this season. The previous season-low was 24 points against Charleston.
"Last week, we were as physical as we have played all year," Johnson said. "I believe we have come a lot way since week one. But we are always looking to get better. We have a different type of offense to defend this week and we will have to continue to improve."
Effingham's defense has only allowed 103 points this season and shut out Charleston last week. It was the second shutout for the Flaming Hearts this season, and they haven't allowed more than six points in the last three weeks.
"Defensively, they are similar to their offense," Johnson said. "They are big up front and have good speed on the back end. It will be a challenge for us, and we must limit our mistakes to keep the chains moving."
Mattoon's offense has stalled over the past two weeks. After putting 17 points up in the first half against Mount Zion two weeks ago, the Green Wave were shut out in the second half in the 26-17 loss. Then last week, the Green Wave were held scoreless in the first three quarters before scoring six points in the fourth quarter in the loss to Taylorville.
Mattoon has been held to 148 points this season. Johnson said the solution is simple.
"Eliminate our mistakes and negative plays," Johnson said. "We will need all 11 players on offense doing their job the whole game."