MATTOON — Mattoon is no stranger to its Class 5A first-round playoff opponent, Triad, since the two schools squared off to start the season in Troy.
The result, an unranked Triad squad jumped out to a 21-0 lead on Mattoon and the Knights cruised to a 52-10 win.
However, the Green Wave (5-4) aren't the only team to feel the wrath of Triad's triple-option attack as the Knights won their first eight games of the season before losing 33-21 last week to Belleville Althoff Catholic.
The eight-game winning streak helped Triad rise as far as No. 3 in the 5A rankings. The Knights go into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the South bracket and are ranked No. 6 in the 5A poll.
It's been a roller coaster season for the Green Wave since they lost to Triad. Mattoon dropped its first three games of the season before winning its next four. The Green Wave dropped the Apollo Conference title game to Taylorville and then beat Jerseyville last week to become playoff eligible.
"We are in the playoffs and that's the most important thing," Mattoon coach Troy Johnson said. "If you go 5-4, you are going to pull a good football team and you are going to have to play them at some point, so why not play them now. They are a good football team."
Mattoon has to play much better this time around in order to pull the upset against the Knights. In the opening game, Triad rushed for 403 yards and the Green Wave were held to 228 yards and were whistled for nine penalties.
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"Hopefully we have improved on some tackling and some assignment stuff," Johnson said. "You have to tackle those guys and a lot of the time it's a one-on-one deal and hopefully we get to the right assignments. We have worked on those and we will see how it goes.
"Offensively, we are running the ball a lot better than we were in Week one. Hopefully that will work out for us."
Triad running back Anthony Nelson caused the most problems for the Green Wave in this season's matchup. He rushed for 220 yards and four scores on 12 carries.
The Green Wave aren't the only team to have problems with Nelson, though. He has been a key component in Traid's eight wins and even rushed for more than 200 yards in the Knights loss to unbeaten Althoff Catholic.
"He's a really, really, really good back and I think your best option is gang-tackling," Johnson said. "Whoever is assigned to him has to get to him and hang on to him for the rest of the people to get there because one guy a lot of times can't get him down."
Mattoon's running game has improved considerably since the contest against Triad when Garett Rice was held to 23 yards on 13 carries. After his third 200-yard game of the season against Jerseyville last week, Rice has rushed for 1,062 yards and four touchdowns on 171 carries.
"I think that will make a difference because we need to control the ball because the smallest amount of time you have to defend them, the better," Johnson said. "If they don't have the ball, it's hard to score. I am hoping the run game can help us out a little bit with that."
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