Charleston quarterback Nick Cheney runs down the right side during the first quarter.

By Race Archibald

Charleston defensive back Sam Schuette returned an interception for a touchdown on the second play of the game and then recovered a fumbled punt near the end zone that led to another touchdown in the final minutes.

In between, the Trojans could not generate much offense, committed six turnovers and had difficulty stopping a physical rushing and electric passing game by Class 4A, No. 9 Effingham, despite being tied at halftime, 7-7.

Ultimately, Effingham pulled away from Charleston in the second half Friday night to defeat the host Trojans 35-14. 

Charleston celebrates after Sam Schuette returned an interception 30 yards for a TD.

The score was tied, 7-7, at the half, with a combined five turnovers between the teams. They had six more in the second half.

Charleston got off to a hot start when Schuette intercepted Effingham quarterback Nathan Shackelford on the second play of the game and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. 

It was the first of three turnovers recovered by Schuette, who had one other interception to go along with the fumble recovery on the 5-yard-line. 

“We knew that (receiver) was their go-to player,” Schuette said. “I was eyeing him and happened to be in the right place at the right time.” 

Effingham was able to easily move the ball on the Charleston defense, piling up 388 total yards. But penalties and five turnovers slowed momentum so the Hearts were unable to find the end zone until Shackelford threw a 60-yard pass to wide receiver Tristin Duncan to tie the game at 7-7 late in the second quarter.

Shackelford had overthrown a receiver just a few plays before, but he was able to connect on his next deep pass. 

Effingham coach Brett Hefner said starting center Stetson Green had broken his finger on Thursday, but he was cleared to play. After a few snap issues, he was eventually pulled from the game in favor of sophomore Trevin Dust, who had never taken a snap at the varsity level. 

“In the practice snaps he had before the game, we had no issues,” Hefner said. “Game is a lot different. Not fair to him because he didn’t have any reps with them.” 

Effingham fumbled two snaps on the night.

Cory Spour runs left 5 yards to score CHS’s second TD.

It was a balanced attack from the Flaming Hearts, with Schackelford throwing for 159 yards and three touchdowns and the team posting 229 rushing yards for two touchdowns. Chase Woomer led Effingham in rushing with 135 yards. Effingham posted three straight scoring drives in the second half to extend its lead to 28-7, two of which came after Charleston turnovers. 

Shackelford connected with receiver Cameron Kalber only twice on the night, but both completions resulted in touchdowns.

Charleston quarterback Nick Cheney overthrew several receivers on the night, finishing with just four completions on 22 attempts for 26 yards. He was intercepted three times.

Charleston coach Jerry Payne said it was uncharacteristic for Cheney to miss his receivers. 

“He’s been point on in practice,” Payne said. “(He) just kinda got caught up with things a little bit.” 

Running back Cory Spour scored the only offensive touchdown for Charleston with a 5-yard run late in the fourth quarter to make it 35-14. 

Charleston drops to 2-3 overall, 1-2 in the Apollo Conference. Effingham is 5-0, 3-0.