CHARLESTON — As the Mattoon and Charleston get ready for the 2018 Coles County Clash, both teams are in different places. Mattoon is coming off a win over Lincoln last week and is 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the Apollo Conference. The Green Wave are only three more wins from a potential playoff berth. A win over Charleston gets Mattoon two wins closer to playoff eligibility with five games left.
A loss to Mattoon almost ends any hope Charleston would have of qualifying for the playoffs. The Trojans come into the game with a 0-3 record and are 0-2 in the Apollo Conference. After keeping it close with Canton in the season opener, the last two games have gotten away from Charleston in the second half.
One thing Charleston coach Tyler Hanner can rely on is that his team seems to play a bit harder at the Clash, which kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday at Eastern Illinois' O'Brien Stadium.
"Both teams do. It's our rival. Aside from playing at EIU, this is a big game every year for us now. It is in every sport," Hanner said. "It's a big game."
Mattoon coach Troy Johnson said the game is always fun and exciting.
"It's a great time of the year. It's why you play the game. The atmosphere of EIU and the crowd, it's a nice week," Johnson said.
The Green Wave have a five-game winning streak in the clash and on top of that, Charleston has a 13-game losing streak. Hanner said this would be a nice time to snap both streaks.
"We want to break both streaks really bad. We have simply made too many mistakes these last couple of years against Mattoon," Hanner said. "The same can be said for our losing streak as well. But if there was ever a week to get things right, it is this week."
The Green Wave are coming off a dominating win over Lincoln last Friday. The second quarter was a bit close, but Mattoon jumped out to a decent lead and then pulled away in the second half for a 47-13 victory.
While Johnson is happy with the win, he wants to continue to see the team improve every week.
"We have to keep continuing to improve, that's our thing. Get better every week no matter who we play and what their record is," Johnson said. "We have to continue to work in practice and get better on our side. Last week was an improvement for us and hopefully, we continue to do that this week."
Mattoon did have 203 yards passing last week but it was the ground game that helped the Green Wave pull away in the second half. Abe Baker led the team with 145 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries, Jack Pilson rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries and Tucker Overton rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown on five carries.
"There's three guys back there that can run the ball and they are three different types of runners. It's nice," Johnson said. "Abe is like a bull in a china shop and Tucker has some wiggle to him but Abe can make some nice cuts. He's got good vision and Tucker does to and obviously so does Jack."
Hanner thought his team did a good job against the run against Canton but Mahomet-Seymour was able to run on the Trojans in week two.
"We have made tackling a focal point this season in practice. I think it is starting to improve," Hanner said. "But Pilson and Baker are a nice one-two punch with running the ball. So we expect them to try and run the ball. We have to be physical up front, read our keys and make good tackles."
In last week's loss to Taylorville, Charleston's rushing attack had one of its best games. The Trojans rushed for 154 yards. Braydon Doyle led Charleston with 76 yards, Reece Morgan had 48 yards and Nick Sweeney had 47 yards.
"Braydon brings a physical style of running. He runs like a defensive lineman should run. He has shown us what he can do. I would imagine that he will get his fair share of touches," Hanner said. "Nick and Reece ran the ball pretty well, too. Give credit to our offensive line for blocking the best we've seen all year."
Mattoon's run defense was stout against Lincoln, allowing only 55 yards rushing.
"We are improving. Obviously, we did a better job than the week prior. Playing teams like Mascoutah with all of that speed really helps you as the year goes on because sometimes you have to play those guys to figure out angles to run down a guy," Johnson said. "Defensively I thought we did a good job, especially in the third quarter which I think was negative yardage. That's hard to do at any level. Hopefully we can continue to be successful on that side of the ball."
Tickets are available at the Mattoon and Charleston athletic offices on Thursday for $5. Tickets can be purchased at the stadium the day of the game for $6.
Want to see more local sports coverage like this?
Our Sports Newsletter email is for you! Delivered twice weekly, it is full of local sports content just like this article!