TAYLORVILLE –– Clay Hubble rushed 21 times for 129 yards and a touchdown and added four catches for 30 yards, but Mahomet-Seymour shot themselves in the foot with penalties and Taylorville pulled away for a 36-24 victory on Sept. 6.
“I could sit here and make every excuse in the world and I’m pretty sure a lot of them would be justified and validated,” M-S head coach Jon Adkins said. “Fact of the matter is they just played harder than we did. I felt like they outplayed us and they wanted it more than we did.”
Hubble’s three-yard touchdown scamper gave M-S an early 7-0 lead, but Taylorville responded with 23 unanswered points.
“He’s a stud,” Adkins said. “He’s a warrior. What a tough little son of a gun. I don’t know how many touches he got but it was a lot. He just kept getting up and kept fighting. He’s a warrior. He played well. That’s what’s so frustrating. We had so many bright spots.”
The M-S defense just couldn’t string together multiple stops all night long. Taylorville took their opening drive down inside the red zone, but Costen Campion came up with a huge sack and Noah Crowley’s pass breakup in the end zone ended the promising drive. But after that point, Taylorville marched up and down the field.
Taylorville quarterback Caden Mileham scored from a couple yards out to tie the ballgame late in the first quarter. Then Mileham connected with 6-foot-4 tight end Tyler Heimsness for a 23-yard touchdown strike. M-S quarterback Braden Finch did some great things on the ground, but he threw a costly interception midway through the second quarter that Taylorville defensive back Camden Woodward returned 70 yards for the score. Finch’s pass ricocheted off Travis’ hands and Woodward did the rest.
Finch finished with 15 carries for 91 rushing yards. He completed 7-of-15 passes for 60 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
“He’s a warrior, a competitor and he wants to win,” Adkins said. “I felt like things didn’t really go his way and weren’t perfect. He wants things to be perfect bc that’s the type of kid he is. He expects perfection and he expects winning. That’s him. He takes a lot on his shoulders himself. I thought he played well.”
“He’s still learning our system. Something as simple as when he threw that interception, he overthrew it a little bit, that’s a learning curve, ‘Hey you hit your underneath check-down route.’ It’s like that for a lot of guys. We got a lot of guys who are in their second varsity football start, but we’re starting to get better.”
Trailing 23-7 at the half, M-S tried desperately to get back in the game in the second half. Carson Thomas drilled a 28-yard field goal, and Finch connected with Travis for an 11-yard score, but it wasn’t enough. Taylorville continued to add on with a 5-yard touchdown plunge by Austin Herbert, and junior Ethan Mileham scored the final Taylorville touchdown on an end-around.
Finch connected with sophomore running back Mitch Gallier for a five-yard touchdown in the closing seconds.
But laundry was on the field throughout the entire game, and M-S had multiple drive-killing penalties. On three occasions, the Bulldogs’ defense jumped offsides on third-and-short to give Taylorville a first down.
“It was extremely frustrating to watch them go on a long drive and chew up the clock,” Adkins said. “It’s frustrating to watch us make silly penalties and mistakes. We’re still making those first-game mistakes. At the end of the day, our kids fought hard. They never gave up, they never quit.”
Hayden Nelson led the Bulldogs with nine tackles. Campion added seven stops including multiple tackles for a loss. Thomas and Seth Buchanan both had six tackles. Colton Morris chipped in five tackles.
“We’re struggling to find just who we are defensively,” Adkins said. “Good thing for us is that we get to play the next game. It’s a home game. I know we want to avenge both of these two losses. We’re going to come back to work tomorrow and prepare for the Green Wave. They’re going to come into our place and we just have to get better. There’s no doubt about that.”
M-S (0-2) will host Mattoon at 7 p.m. today. The Green Wave lost to Triad 41-7 in the season opener, but bounced back and beat Charleston 27-14 on Sept. 6. Adkins and the M-S coaching staff will have to go back to the drawing board after an 0-2 start. But the back half of the schedule certainly softens up, so if M-S can start to get back on track, they can still be in position to qualify for the playoffs.
“At the end of the day, our kids fought hard,” Adkins said. “They never gave up, they never quit. They fought to the end. On the road, to the 2-0 defending conference champions, we put ourselves in position to have a shot. That’s all I can ask for. Why can’t we go 7-2 and get a home playoff game? Why not?”