MAHOMET — Jon Adkins knows what he’s getting into. The new Mahomet-Seymour football coach is well aware of the challenging schedule M-S has put together. After losing several key starters from last year, the Bulldogs will have to be ready to go from Week 1. A slow start could mean that M-S misses the playoffs for the second year in a row, which is something that hasn’t happened since 2001.

“We got a tough opening schedule,” Adkins said. “I don’t know if there’s anyone in the state who has it tougher than us. I don’t know if you like the term “Murderer’s Row,” but that’s kinda what it feels like. Nothing like getting the toughest competition out of the way early!”

Here is the breakdown of the Bulldogs’ schedule.

Week 1: Marion

For the last couple of years, M-S had to face powerhouse Washington in the opener. The Bulldogs were pounded 52-7 last year. Thankfully, Washington is off the schedule, but Marion will provide a tough challenge. Last year, Marion went 6-3 in the regular season and won its first-round game in the Class 5A playoffs. They were felled by the eventual state champions in the Sweet 16.

Week 2: Taylorville

Taylorville is fresh off an 11-1 season where the Tornadoes advanced to the Class 4A Elite Eight. Taylorville beat M-S 38-26 last season but loses many talented seniors, including QB Brandon Odam, who passed for over 3,500 yards and 40 touchdowns last year. M-S will return more contributors than Taylorville and it could be a big swing game in the early chase for the Apollo crown.

Week 3: Mattoon

Mattoon also won a playoff game last year. Top QB Jack Pilson and wideout Brock Smith both graduated, but Mattoon is an up-and-coming program. Mattoon defeated M-S 31-28 last year in a back-and-forth affair. M-S held an early 14-0 lead, but the Green Wave rallied with two late touchdowns to hold on for the road win. M-S will be out for revenge.

Week 4: Effingham

M-S played Effingham last year at the wrong time. The Flaming Hearts had started to catch fire and blew out the Bulldogs 62-28. Overall, Effingham went on a nine-game winning streak to make it all the way to the Class 4A quarterfinals. Effingham’s top quarterback and running back both graduated, but the Hearts return some strong underclassmen. Effingham could be the favorite in the Apollo Conference next season.

Week 5: Mount Zion

For the fifth straight week, the Bulldogs will play a team that qualified for the playoffs last year. Mount Zion defeated M-S 27-12 last year thanks to the hard work of Sage Davis. The junior running back rushed for 232 yards and two TDs. Now, the senior could be the top player in the conference. The M-S defense will have its hands full in a pivotal Week 5 showdown.

Week 6: Lincoln

The schedule starts to ease up as Lincoln went 2-7 last year, including a 14-0 loss to the Bulldogs. M-S held Lincoln to just 55 yards of total offense last year. M-S will have to take advantage of the softer schedule down the home stretch.

Week 7: Charleston

At 0-9, Charleston was the worst team in the Apollo last year, finishing 0-9. It doesn’t look like it could get much better in 2019, as the Trojans lose their quarterback, top running back and top wideout. Oh, and their No. 1 tackler.

Week 8: Macomb

M-S capped off a difficult 2018 campaign with a tough 20-13 win over Macomb on Senior Night. Macomb was 2-7 last season, but they’ll return QB VJ Lane, who had some bright moments against the Bulldogs last year. Wideout John Ogle was a game-changer and he’s poised for a big senior season.

Week 9: Richwoods

The Bulldogs finish with a showdown at home against Peoria Richwoods, which went 2-7 while playing a difficult schedule The first five teams on the M-S schedule all qualified for the playoffs last year. The final four teams combined to go 6-30. If the Bulldogs go 2-3 in the first five games, they could qualify for the playoffs if they’re able to take advantage at the end.