LINCOLN — For Mattoon, the best defense was a good offense for the Green Wave in the football game against Lincoln
Mattoon jumped out to a 14-0 lead early and ate up some time on the clock. Mattoon’s defense stepped up early, but Lincoln found some holes in the defense in the second half.
But every time Lincoln scored, Mattoon’s offense had an answer, with a score or a time-eating drive, which allowed Mattoon to pick up its first win with a 34-27 victory on Friday.
“The offense, I think coach Jarad Kimbro did a great job of calling the game and he realizes that we have to try and keep the defense off the field as much as we can,” Mattoon coach Troy Johnson said. “The first half, I thought the defense played well, better than I anticipated, which was awesome. We are moving forward. Just try and get a little better next week and a little better the next week.”
Mattoon rushed for 439 total yards in the win.
“Our offensive line, we knew that would be a strong point coming in and I think they were a little upset with themselves last week,” Johnson said. “I think they came out and played a lot better today.”
Julian Gittens led Mattoon with 279 yards and three touchdowns and Abe Baker had 111 yards rushing.
“I thought Abe did a great job in there and he’s kinda like a bull in a china shop. He’s a big, strong kid and works hard. What he gets, he deserves,” Johnson said. “Julian broke some tackles and such, but you have to get that initial seam. He got that seam and somehow he makes people miss and is a big, strong runner.”
The Green Wave opened the game with a 13-play, 90-yard drive. Jack Pilson capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.
Lincoln completed a 13-yard pass for its first play of the game and drove down to Mattoon’s 45-yard line. Lincoln faced fourth-and-3 and Mattoon’s defense stopped Titus Cannon a yard short of the first down.
Mattoon reached Lincoln territory right away with a 26-yard run from Gittens to the Lincoln 36-yard line. Later, Gittens bounced off a couple of tacklers and scored on a 9-yard run for a 14-0 lead.
Mattoon rushed for 221 yards in the first half but was held out of the end zone in its next two possessions.
The Green Wave’s defense stepped up and kept Lincoln out of the end zone in the first half, too. Lincoln drove into Mattoon territory two more times, but the Wave forced the turnover on downs both times.
“I think coach Jarod Kiger did a good job (with the defense),” Johnson said. “I think our kids played against that heavy-set well and did a good job or recognizing their patterns.”
Lincoln drove into Mattoon territory in its second possession of the second half when the Green Wave stopped a run for no gain and got a good pass rush on the next two plays to force the Railsplitters to punt.
Mattoon proceeded to drive down to the Lincoln 33-yard line and on fourth down, a pass interference call on the Railsplitters gave the Green Wave the first down. Pilson then hit Londyn Fultz in the middle of the field for a 15-yard touchdown for a 21-0 lead with 2:22 left in the third quarter.
That’s when Lincoln started its comeback. A couple of big plays put the Railsplitters at the Mattoon 5-yard line and Titus Cannon scored on a run to make it 21-7.
Gittens fumbled the kickoff and Lincoln recovered. On the first play, Cannon ran for 16 yards for the touchdown to make it 21-14 with 42 seconds left in the third quarter.
Mattoon responded with a quick drive. Abe Baker rushed for 48 yards to get into Lincoln territory and Gittens scored on a 4-yard run for a 28-14 lead.
Mattoon’s defense appeared to be in position to force a punt on third-and-36, but Lincoln completed a 15-yard pass play that turned into an 88-yard gain. Isaiah Bowers, who had the big gain, scored on a 1-yard run to make it 28-21 with 8:42 left in the game.
Mattoon came right back and Gittens scored on a 49-yard run to make it 34-21.
A 44-yard pass set Lincoln up and the Railsplitters scored on a 5-yard run by Cannon to make it 34-27 with 4:20 left.
Mattoon didn’t score on its next possession, but drove past midfield and punted with only 1:16 left on the clock. Lincoln took over at its own 10-yard line. Mattoon’s defense didn’t allow a big play and time ran out as Mattoon won 34-27.