The Effingham Flaming Hearts hosted Mt. Zion on Friday night in the final Apollo Conference game for both teams. Mt. Zion had already clinched the Apollo title last week and came in undefeated in Conference play at 4-0. Effingham needed to win both of their remaining games to be qualified for the playoffs.
Both teams began with three and outs in their first offensive possessions. Effingham’s next possession had some promise to it, but stalled in Mt. Zion territory for a turnover on downs.
Mt. Zion quarterback Brandon Price took a designed QB run down the right sideline for 86 yards after breaking a couple tackles for the first touchdown of the game. Charles Kuhle’s extra point made it 7-0 in the first quarter.
Effingham had another decent drive going again on their next possession. The Hearts struggled again in Brave’s territory and turned the ball over on downs once again.
Mt. Zion and Effingham both were forced to punt on their next possessions in the second quarter.
The next Mt. Zion drive, Price had to get rid of the ball as he was rolling out to pass. Effingham DB Kendall Ballman came in to pick off the pass for Ballman’s first INT of the year.
The Hearts had a short field because of the interception, but could not do anything with it and were forced to punt again.
Effingham’s punt came late in the second quarter to give Mt. Zion the ball back with a little time to go, and the Braves also received the second half kickoff.
It was a quick drive from Mt. Zion that ended in an 18 yard pass from Price to Kuhle to go up 14-0 in the first half as the clock ran out on Effingham’s next drive.
Mt. Zion received the second half kickoff and got into a fourth and long situation early in the drive. The Braves came out in their punt formation, but keep in mind Mt. Zion’s punter is also a wide receiver, Kuhle took the snap then rolled out to his right where he tried to pass. His pass ended up in the hands of a Heart defender for the Braves second turnover of the game.
Effingham could not take advantage of another turnover and were forced into a three and out.
After another Mt. Zion punt, Effingham was on their best drive of the night. With coach Hefner adding in some wildcat offense with Terrence Hill, the Hearts were moving the ball pretty well. Effingham had the ball at first and goal inside the ten. After a couple incomplete pass plays and a run that did not go anywhere, the Hearts found themselves turning the ball over downs yet again inside Mt. Zion territory.
Just a couple plays later though, Effingham’s Alec Morrissey ripped the ball out of the hands of Kuhle for another Effingham takeaway.
The Hearts did not do anything with another Mt. Zion mistake and turned the ball over on downs again in Mt. Zion’s part of the field.
Mt. Zion turned it over on downs on their next possession and gave Effingham a chance in the fourth quarter, trailing 14-0.
Lucas Vasquez threw the ball under pressure and right into the hands of Mt. Zion’s Dawson Johns hands for Effingham’s first turnover of the game, and a costly one.
On a fourth and three during the Mt. Zion possession, the Braves gambled and decided to throw the ball. Price found Kuhle in the middle of the field and threw a lazy lob that got to the wide open receiver who sprinted into the endzone from 40 yards out for the final score and the dagger in the Effingham Hearts.
Effingham turned it over again after incomplete passes downfield and Mt. Zion shut out Effingham 21-0 in the final Apollo Conference game of the season.
With the loss, Effingham falls to 3-5 on the year and 2-3 in the Apollo. Effingham is now ineligible to make the playoffs and will host Mahomet-Seymour, who is joining the Apollo next year, in their final game of 2016.
With the win, Mt. Zion wraps up an undefeated Apollo Conference season at 5-0 in the Apollo and 7-1 overall. The Conference champs, who have already clinched a playoff spot, will host Rantoul next week to round out their year.