No team in the Herald & Review area has a longer football playoff drought than Lincoln — the Railers haven't made the playoffs since 1984.
Things have gotten better since Matt Silkowski, in his third season as Railers coach, took over, and since Lincoln has moved from the Central State 8 to the Apollo Conference. Lincoln was 2-34 in the four seasons before going 3-6 last year in its first season in the Apollo.
Silkowski said the lack of success the program has had the previous 33 seasons isn't a weight on the players' shoulders, but it's something he and his coaching staff are acutely aware of.
"Our kids have high goals and expectations, but I don't think they realize — and I'm glad they don't realize — how bad our program has been for so long," Silkowski said. "They shouldn't be thinking about that, but they don't always realize what we're building from."
And even after losing to Mount Zion 13-3 on Friday to fall to 1-1, 0-1 Apollo Conference, Silkowski said the team's goal remains the playoffs. But Silkowski said it won't be easy.
"I want those kids to achieve and do something great for the community, and for the community to be proud of them," Silkowski said. "But they don't realize some of the culture and values that are instilled in a program like Mount Zion. Some of the problems we're dealing with, they're not dealing with in a program like Mount Zion or Taylorville.
"There's a culture in those programs that takes care of a lot of things. We don't have that tradition."
Silkowski said it's up to the team's upperclassmen to instill that culture.
"We have some strong senior leaders who always do the right thing," Silkowski said. "Those guys will help us as a coaching staff regroup after this loss. All we can do is learn from this and get back at it."
When Taylorville plays Effingham, there are going to be some fireworks.
In the 2017 meeting between the Tornadoes and Flaming Hearts, Effingham won 50-37 and the game was one of the largest offensive displays in Illinois high school football history.
Taylorville wide receiver Justin Wright caught 12 passes for 390 yards, setting an IHSA record for most receiving yards in a game.
Tornadoes quarterback Brandon Odam threw for 513 yards and four touchdowns, which ranked for 15th all-time in the IHSA for passing yards in a game.
Believe it or not, Taylorville's offense turned it up during Friday's 2018 edition of the rivalry. The offense combined for 736 total yards of offense as the Tornadoes won 64-20.
"736 total yards is a pretty cool number to have," Taylorville coach Jeb Odam said.
Brandon Odam threw for 559 yards for the second-most passing yards ever in the Herald & Review area, behind Monticello's Brandon Wildman 602 yards against Tolono Unity in 2014. Odam's performance on Friday ranks ninth in IHSA history.
Taylorville wideout Yemi Odugbesan hauled in 335 yards receiving, good for 5th all-time in IHSA history. Wright added another 198 yards.
Both receivers were able to take advantage of single coverage from Effingham (0-2).
"We started to go with some two tight end sets which was max protection in the first half and they were throwing man-to-man on us and bringing a lot of pressure," Jeb Odam said. "So they were one-on-one on Justin and Yemi and we were able to hit the big plays against their man pressure."
Cornerbacks covering Taylorville's (2-0) receivers will have one of the most challenging jobs in high school football this season.
"(Wright and Odugbesan), with their speed and the way they run routes, they are tough to leave on islands," Odam said. "We would run a hitch and they would give us an 8-yard cushion and we would turn it into a 20-yard play. We would come back with a streak and they would bring the cushion up and we would run by them. It is one of those things, the corner, when you are playing against the athletes that we've got this year, it's a tough match-up for them."
While the offense grabbed the Week 2 headlines, the Tornadoes' defense earned their coach's praise as well.
"(The defense) only gave up 13 points because the offense had a pick six. They also had a fumble return for a touchdown, we got four turnovers, Justin (Wright) had a huge interception in the red zone so the defense once again played well for us," he said.
Maroa-Forsyth is off to another strong start to its season after Week 2's 35-7 victory over New Berlin.
The Trojans' (2-0) defense has allowed just 13 points this season (six to North Mac, seven to New Berlin) and coach Josh Jostes highlighted his senior led-defensive line.
"Our defensive line, Andrew Poland, Tucker Klein and Tre Corley, are doing a really nice job for us up front," he said.
The offense for the Associated Press' No. 1 ranked team in Class 2A is also coming together as senior Max Davenport is filling the void left by the graduated Deondre Gregory.
"Max is running the ball well for us. He's at 150 yards rushing after two weeks and he has three touchdowns and he is making plays for us," Jostes said. "We are moving the ball well and we are able to throw the ball. (Quarterback) Ian (Benner) has been pretty efficient.
Still, Jostes said he sees room for improvement in the Trojans as they prepare for Pittsfield in Week 3.
"Mentally we've got to be better. We have way too many penalties and we need eliminate our turnovers," he said.
A class act
Warrensburg-Latham beat up on the LSA/Decatur Christian/Mount Pulaski football co-op Friday night, 40-12, and their defense held the Lions scoreless until deep into the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals, led by new coach Aaron Fricke, earned kudos from LSA's coach, Illinois High School Football Coaches Hall of Famer Craig Bundy, for their play.
"They not only were a great football team, they played with great class. They were a great example of how high school teams should play. And I feel that way about my team as well. It was a hard-nosed game," he said.