Effingham football traveled to Salem Friday night to play at Jim Finks field. Salem came in with a 1-3 record 0-1 in the Conference and this was the final time these two teams will match up in the Apollo Conference as Salem is leaving after this year. Effingham came in 2-2 and 1-0 in the Apollo after beating Charleston last week.
It did not take Salem long to get the scoring started. On the first drive of the game, running back Eric Schoonover ran in the endzone from four yards out. The extra point was missed and Salem led 6-0 early.
Effingham was driving the ball of their first offensive series. The Hearts were inside the Salem 20 yard line but turned the ball over on downs after not converting on fourth down.
Effingham ended up outscoring Salem in a shootout that resulted in a 45-31 victory.
Salem’s first possession in the second quarter resulted in the first punt of the game. Effingham rushed the punter and got a piece of the ball. The Hearts recovered the loose ball and had a short field, still trailing 6-0.
Effingham back, Terrence Hill, took it in from five yards out for his eighth touchdown of the season. Danny Hortenstine put the ball through up uprights and Effingham led for the first time, 7-6.
Salem answered right back on their next drive. Another Schoonover run, this time from 12 yards out, resulted in this second touchdown and the 12-7 lead.
Those two drives started a strand of seven straight possessions combined by the two teams that ended in a touchdown. The only one that did not in between there was when Salem started a drive with 16 seconds left in the half.
Effingham had a quick answer themselves for the Wildcat score. This time, it was Jordan McCabe for Effingham that ran in from 15 yards out. The Hearts attempted a two point conversion but was unsuccessful.
A big third and long came up for Salem on their next drive. The Wildcats set up for a screen to Schoonover out of the backfield and Schoonover broke a couple tackles down the sideline and ended up scoring from 63 yards out to give Salem the 18-13 lead with not a lot of time left in the first half.
Effingham did not have a lot of time, but a couple passes and a Hill one yard touchdown run gave Effingham the lead back with just 16 seconds left in the half where the time ran out before Salem could do anything productive.
The Hearts received the kick to start the second half. A Landon Wolfe pass to Gabe Herron went for 60+ yards as the DB fell down that had the coverage on Herron. Herron did not make it into the endzone though as he was chased down from behind and tackled at the one. That’s when Hill came in and ran it in from one yard and Effingham led 27-18 early in the third quarter.
Salem had a quick and long answer of their own on the next drive. Nathan Roth found Shaun Reid on a deep thrown that went for 51 yards and a touchdown. Effingham still led by two, 27-25 in the third quarter.
Finally, the scoring slowed down for a couple drives. Effingham was forced to punt even after the Hearts converted on third down but a penalty, one of 13 for Effingham, negated the play and forced them back. The Hearts were penalized for 125 total yards in this game.
Salem was forced to punt on their next possession and Effingham got the ball back, ahead 27-25, to begin the fourth quarter.
Effingham drove down the field in the fourth quarter and scored on a five yard touchdown run from Hill to increase their lead 33-25 about halfway through the final quarter.
The next Salem possession was a big one for the Wildcats. On fourth down, Salem had to go for it instead of punting. The play was very close but after bringing out the chains to measure, he was just short of the marker and Effingham regained possession on downs.
What seemed like the dagger in Salem, Hill took the ball 53 yards for the Effingham score to go up by two touchdowns, 39-25. This was Hill’s third, and final touchdown of the day.
There was still plenty of time on the clock for Salem if they moved quickly. The did just that on their next drive, scoring on a 20 yard pass from Roth to Reid again. Salem trailed 39-31 after the failed extra point kick.
With just over three minutes in the game, if Effingham could have strung together a nice drive, they would have been able to wrap up the win. But the Hearts could not get things going and ended up having to punt the ball away with two minutes left. The punt was not a very good one as it went soaring out of bounds, giving Salem decent field position with two minutes left and trailing by eight.
Salem was driving on the Effingham defense before Roth was being chased out of the pocket and just had to throw the ball to someone. That someone ended up being Effingham’s Grant Wolfe who ran it down the sideline for 70 yards and the dagger touchdown on the Wildcats.
With just over a minute to play, Salem did not have enough time to score again. The final was Effingham 45, Salem 31 in the final Apollo Conference matchup between these two teams.
With the win, Effingham improves to 3-2 overall, and is tied for first in the Apollo with Mt. Zion at 2-0. Effingham will host a tough Taylorville (4-1) team next week at Effingham for homecoming.
Salem drops to 1-4 after the loss and 0-2 in Apollo play with Charleston. Salem will play Mattoon (2-3) at home next week.