MAHOMET — Jon Adkins’ quest for his first win as the Mahomet-Seymour head coach came up short on Sept. 6. The Bulldogs were felled by Taylorville 36-24 in the first Apollo Conference game of the season. M-S fell to 0-2.

There are plenty of things to clean up, but positives still remain.

Each week, the Mahomet Citizen will give five takeaways from the Bulldogs’ game the previous week.

1. Braden Finch & Clay Hubble form dynamic rushing duo

Write it in ink: The M-S rushing attack is going to be hard for anyone to stop.

For the second-straight game, Braden Finch and Clay Hubble could do basically whatever they wanted on the ground. Hubble finished with 129 rushing yards and Finch added 86 in the 36-24 loss to Taylorville. The Tornadoes’ defense had its hands full trying to contain Finch and Hubble.

Realistically, Taylorville only had some sort of success defensively when Finch made one mistake in the passing game. Unfortunately for M-S, that one mistake was returned 70 yards for a touchdown. That pick-six basically swung the entire game.

Instead of M-S driving down for the go-ahead score, Taylorville extended its lead out to 21-7 midway through the second quarter.But for 90 percent of the game, M-S had full control offensively. M-S offensive coordinator Brad Anderson didn’t dial up a passing play on the first drive, as Finch and Hubble just diced them up for a touchdown drive.

Hubble is slippery and elusive. Finch might not be the fastest, but the big junior quarterback makes great reads and always falls forward for a couple more yards.

Hubble is special. While Finch still has improvements to make as a passer, his rushing ability is the perfect complement for Hubble. M-S will need to lean on their rushing attack more and more.

2. Costen Campion cementing himself as leader of defense

Senior defensive end Costen Campion was a force against Taylorville. Campion came off the edge and came up with some game-changing plays. His sack in the first quarter stunted Taylorville’s opening drive and reinvigorated the Bulldog defense. Campion and Seth Buchanan are a nice duo on the defensive line, but M-S will need a few more guys to step up on the defensive side of the ball. The Bulldogs have given up 70 points in the first two games, but it certainly isn’t Campion’s fault. Campion worked hard in the weight room this summer to transform his body. The hard work has absolutely paid off.

3. Penalties erase margin for error

No team wants to commit penalties. That’s super obvious. But there are some teams that can afford a penalty here or there because they have an abundance of playmaking abilities. M-S just isn’t there right now. Against Taylorville, the M-S defense struggled to get the Tornadoes off the field. Part of that was that Taylorville’s offense was multi-dimensional and dangerous. But the Bulldogs also jumped offsides three times to give Taylorville an extra first down. Those types of penalties will keep head coach Jon Adkins up at night. Offensively, the Bulldogs were fine if they stayed ahead of the chains. But the Bulldogs’ passing game isn’t clicking quite yet, so a holding penalty or a false start threw a wrench into everything and made Brad Anderson’s job a whole lot tougher. They’ll need to clean it up.

4. Both sides of the ball failing to produce game-changing plays

So often, a game is decided by one or two plays. Against Marion, M-S couldn’t convert a fourth-and-one deep in Marion territory when they were attempting to tie the game. Marion took advantage and went the other way to score a touchdown to destroy any possibility of an M-S’ comeback. Against Taylorville, it was a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown that changed the entire game in favor of the Tornadoes. M-S just hasn’t been able to come up with that one big play that puts them over the top.

The Bulldogs’ defense is predicated on turnovers. Through two games, they have yet to intercept a pass. They’ve forced just one turnover throughout two games and that was on a muffed punt against Marion. It’s just been a little too easy for both Marion and Taylorville to move the football.

On the offensive side, Hubble and Finch have had to shoulder a massive load. M-S has rushed the ball 81 times this season. 79 of those attempts have been by either Finch or Hubble. That’s over 97 percent. Five of Finch’s 12 completions have been to Hubble. M-S has more playmakers on offense like Jack Koller, Zach Travis and Noah Crowley, but they haven’t been able to give the Bulldogs’ that spark yet. Hubble is an electrifying running back, but if the passing attack can get going, it’ll take some of the pressure off him to be the guy every single down.

5. Mattoon becomes

a must-win game

Every game is important, but after a 0-2 start, Friday’s home contest against Mattoon will have massive playoff implications. Frankly, the Bulldogs have to win to have any shot at making the playoffs.

Mattoon sits at 1-1. They beat a so-so Charleston squad 27-14 last week. They fell to Triad 41-7 in their first game of the season. They’re not unbeatable at all. Last year, the Bulldogs fell 31-28 to Mattoon, and many around the program believe it’s a game they should’ve won. Now, they need this win desperately. After this week, M-S will play Effingham and Mt. Zion. Both teams are undefeated through two weeks. Effingham has reloaded and beat a tough Mater Dei team 32-28 and rolled Lincoln 41-7. Mt. Zion might have the toughest opening schedule in the state, and they beat both Dunlap and Highland on the road. Those two games aren’t impossible for M-S to win, but they’re not going to be easy by any means. The back half of the Bulldogs’ schedule is filled with very winnable games, but if they lost to Mattoon, Effingham and Mt. Zion, it won’t matter. In order to keep the dream of five wins alive, they’ll need to take care of business at home against Mattoon on Friday.