MATTOON - Mattoon snapped Triad’s five-game winning streak over the Green Wave, capitalizing on a plethora of Knights turnovers in a 28-23 win over the Knights Friday at Gaines Field.
"They've been on a little run on us. Mentally when they start doing and you think about it, sometimes you just have to get over the jump to get the kids to start believing," Mattoon coach Troy Johnson said. "These kids believe in themselves and each other and they got it done."
Mattoon scored three touchdowns in the third quarter, two of them coming after Triad fumbles to secure the win.
"The one thing I told them (at halftime) is if I am going to go back out on the field two scores down, I wouldn't want to be out there with anyone else," Johnson said. "This senior group had a great offseason and I know they would go out there and fight. This group, I would go fight with them any day."
Mattoon quarterback Jack Pilson made a big play with 2:42 left in the game to keep the clock moving when he scrambled to convert on a fourth and two situations in which the Green Wave were only up 28-23.
However, Pilson botched an option play on that drive with 2:04 to play, giving the ball back to Triad at about the 10-yard line.
Triad worked the ball all the way down to the 17-yard line before they turned the ball over on downs with four seconds to play in the game.
"I thought we played hard. We didn't always execute the way we like but we hung in there," Johnson said. "We made a few mistakes and overcame them. The kids kept battling back. I promise that my kids will play hard and with heart and that's what they did and they happened to come out on top."
The first half of the game was ruled by big plays and errors from both teams; it included two fumbles from each team and one interception; it ended however with Triad leading 16-7.
The first score of the game for Mattoon came with 5:38 to play in the first quarter on a pitch play from quarterback Jack Pilson to running back Abraham Baker.
Baker took the pitch from Pilson at the 15-yard line and ran to the right, drawing first contact at the seven-yard line, and he dragged two Triad defenders with him into the end zone.
The touchdown run mirrored how most of Baker’s runs went during the game: contacted early but made defenders work hard to bring him down.
The pitch play was set up by a 52-yard pass from Pilson to receiver London Fultz on the second play of the drive.
On that play, Pilson scrambled out to his right before he fired the ball down the field to Fultz who had his defender beat by four or five yards. Fultz caught the ball and moved a couple of yards forward before being brought down at the Green Wave’s 24-yard line.
Triad responded to the touchdown as early as possible returning the kick after the touchdown all the way down to the eight-yard line.
Triad’s excitement after the return was short-lived however as the first play they ran on the drive resulted in a fumble picked up by Mattoon.
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It was after the fumble recovery by Mattoon things once again turned back to more excitement for Triad.
The first play ran from scrimmage after the fumble, Pilson bobbled a bad snap from the center and fell down at the one-yard line.
Pilson then attempted a pass on the next play, but fell in the end zone while scrambling, resulting in a safety.
The second quarter began with a bobbled fumble that was recovered by Mattoon at Triad’s 38-yard line.
The snap on the punt went over Pilson’s head and he picked it up and scrambled around the ball for a few seconds before just getting the punt off before drawing contact. The receiver fielded the punt cleanly but had it stripped on by the first Mattoon player that touched him.
Mattoon was unable to capitalize on the fumbled punt, putting together a drive that resulted in three dropped passes, penalties and a 3rd-and-40 situation for the Green Wave.
Triad scored its first touchdown on the following drive, taking a 9-7 lead with 7:14 to play in the second quarter, quarterback Jayce Barfield kept the ball and ran it in for a 12-yard touchdown run.
The play was the result of Triad’s triple-option offense working exactly to plan. Barfield was joined by two running backs in the backfield and faked to both of them before eventually keeping the ball and charging to the left into open space and eventually the end zone.
At the close of the first half, Pilson had a pass intercepted by a Triad defensive lineman. Pilson was scrambling to his right when it appeared that the ball may have slipped out of his hands as he threw and it fell right into the defender's hands.
Triad capitalized on the interception, scoring a touchdown with 1:17 to play in the second quarter. Running back Devin Towns ran through two Green Wave tacklers for a 10-yard touchdown run. Pushing the score to 15-7 Triad favor.
The half ended with Mattoon missing a 44-yard field goal.
Matton opened the first half with a touchdown that pushed the score to 16-14 still in Triad’s favor. The score was basic by design but effective as Pilson kept the ball himself and plunged up the middle of the pile for a one-yard run.
Mattoon struck again with 4:39 to play in the third quarter when Pilson connected with Brock Smith for a 26-yard score that pushed Mattoon into the lead at 22-16 after Mattoon converted a two-point conversion.
Mattoon recovered yet another Triad fumble with 3:40 to play in the third quarter. Triad was running the option when the quarterback flipped the ball behind the running back, setting it loose behind the line of scrimmage.
Yet again, the Green Wave made Triad pay for a turnover, scoring another touchdown with 1:24 to play in the third quarter. Again, it was Pilson scrambling to his right before throwing the ball into the end zone. The ball was tipped at the goal line but right into the hands of Smith who was standing in the middle of the end zone.
Triad returned the favor with 10:11 to play in the game with a five-yard touchdown run by Vincent Towns. The score was moved to 28-23 Mattoon’s favor.