Effingham wasn’t supposed to have a winning record this season after losing so many players from last year’s squad, THEY DID. Effingham wasn’t supposed to make the playoffs after starting the season 0-2, THEY DID, They got to the quarterfinals. Effingham wasn’t supposed to hang with Bishop McNamara on Saturday THEY DID.
The Hearts started off the game strong and came out swinging. Landon Wolfe found his returning favorite deep threat Tristin Duncan for 40 yards early on, Duncan could cap off the first drive of the game hauling in a 22 yard touchdown pass to make it 7-0. The Hearts defense would force a punt, then the offense would take full advantage. Duncan would again haul in a big pass play to set up a Wolfe to Shackelford 7 yard TD pass that gave the Hearts a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. To close out the first quarter, after a fourth down conversion by the Fighting Irish their outstanding senior running back Tyshon King broke several tackles and tip toed the sideline to take it in from 38 yards out, the Irish would miss the extra point making it 14-6. Close to halftime Wolfe would throw an interception deep in their own territory but luckily for the Hearts they got the ball back after the ball was fumbled on the return. After that scare Effingham would elect to take their 14-6 lead into the locker room.
The Irish would start out the 2nd half like Effingham did in the first, on the second play from scrimmage Payton Gerberding hauled in a 66 yard reverse pass to make it 14-12. McNamara would then take advantage of two Effingham fumbles they would turn them into two touchdowns, a 6 yard run by King and a 55 yard pass to Wilson Neitherton. Effingham would get back into it with a 4 yard TD run by Logan Brown. The Irish would take momentum back, remember that play towards the end of the first half when it went Effingham’s way well this time it happened again but the Hearts were on the opposite end. The Hearts would intercept a pass near the endzone and on the ensuing return would fumble it and McNamara would get the ball back and took it a couple plays later King found the end zone to make it a 34-21 lead after three quarters.
Effingham would continue to fight back Wolfe found Jett Gillum from 12 yards out to get the Hearts back in the game 34-28. The Irish on the ensuing drive would face a 4th and 5 and would draw the defense off sides to give them a free first down and a few plays later King would run another one into the end zone making it 42-28. Effingham would get on the board on last time with two minutes left in the game Wolfe would connect with Duncan again to make it 42-35. McNamara would face a 3rd and 6, quarterback Tyler Hiller would scramble for the first down and would run the remainder of the time off the clock.
Effingham finishes the season 9-3 and reached the 3rd round of the playoffs for the first time since 1987.
Here Head Coach Brett Hefner’s final thoughts on the season