Photos and story by Chet Piotrowski
Effingham’s defense is good.
A week after running back Cory Spour lit up the Lincoln defense for 206 yards rushing, the Heart’s vaunted defense limited the Trojans to less than 200 yards of total offense and Spour to just 45 yards rushing Friday on the way to a 34-14 victory at Klosterman Field.
“They were prepared,” Spour said. “We thought we were prepared. It just didn’t work out tonight. It seems like they loaded the box and studied film and knew what we were going to do tonight.”
Effingham (2-0) took a quick 14-point lead in the first quarter. Trojans quarterback Jack Nelson’s first pass attempt was deflected and the Hearts’ multitalented senior defensive back, Parker Wolfe, grabbed the errant pass to set up a 3-yard run by Trevor Donsbach three minutes into the quarter.
“Effingham is every bit as good as that top ten ranking that they got,” Charleston coach Jerry Payne said. “There’s no doubt about. We hoped to hang around to contend, but they’re as every bit as good as that ranking. The ought to go up a bit higher, in my opinion.”
“That’s very nice of him,” Effingham coach Brett Hefner said. “As coaches, we’re going to underplay that a little bit, but we have a number of things to clean up to stay up at that level. There was a number of improvements tonight from last week, and I think we’ll hopefully we’ll see some more.”
Charleston (1-1) fumbled the kickoff return and Wolfe recovered the kickoff at the Charleston 39-yard line.
Effingham’s dynamic senior wide receiver, Tristin Duncan, took a 22-yard reception down to the 4-yard line. Senior Chase Woomer, the Hearts speedy running back, scampered unabated into the end zone, giving Effingham a 14-0 lead with 6:41 remaining in the quarter. Woomer finished the game with 22 rushes for 124 yards.
“It’s tough because you don’t know how someone’s going to play Tristin,” Hefner said of his short pass play-calling. “You just don’t know what you’re going to get with someone in his face or over the top, someone off or in-between. I thought early on they were up and as the game went along and we established things running-wise. Then as the game went along they backed off and gave us a chance for shorter throughs to get Nate (Thompson) a little bit more confidence and rhythm.”
Thompson completed 13-of-22 passing attempts for 138 yards and one touchdown.
The teams traded possessions with both punting after three unproductive plays.
On third down, Nelson connected with senior running back Sam Schuette, then handed the ball off to Spour for an 11-yard scoring run that cut the Hearts’ lead to 14-7.
But Effingham scored again with 4:17 left in the second quarter with a 28-yard run by senior running back Trevor Donsbach, making it 21-7 heading into halftime.
Early in the second half, junior Conor Woodley’s punt was blocked by Effingham’s Shawn Cochran giving the Hearts the ball at the 30-yard line.
Effingham’s Duncan took a Thompson pass over the outstretched arm of Charleston senior defensive back Brayden Rennels for the touchdown. Duncan finished the game with 12 receptions for 118 yards. The missed PAT gave the Hearts an insurmountable 27-7 in the early stages of the third quarter.
Charleston’s offense sputtered most of the night. The Trojans were limited to 62 yards rushing with the bulk of that gained by Spour.
“They just swarmed it,” Payne said. “They loaded up on us a little bit and made it tougher for us. They saw what Cory did last week and were pretty prepared for what Cory did.”
Hefner said shutting down Spour was the Hearts’ main focus.
“Yes, yes and yes!” he said. “We knew that you better take number 25 away. Or at least try and limit him. He’s very good. We thought if we could take most of him away that we would be ok.”
Effingham would add another score on a two-yard reception by sophomore tight end Connor Thompson early in the fourth quarter.
Not giving up, Charleston showed determination though. Nelson, who completed 7-of-20 attempts for 80 yards and an interception, found Schuette for an 11-yard pass as the Trojans put together their best drive of the game, putting the ball at the 5-yard line. Nelson would scramble into the end zone for the touchdown making it 34-14 with just over four minutes left in the game.
“I tell you: I said it in the beginning. The attitudes are fantastic. These kids know they are so fortunate to play right now that they’re going to give everything they’ve got,” Payne said. “These kids have never let me down. I’ve known most of these kids since they were in elementary school. They’ve always been that way. They always go hard. They work hard. That drive when we got that last score was a testament to how hard these kids and how much drive they have and they’re not going to quit. “
To go with the Wolfe interception, Effingham’s defense had three sacks, the last would end the game, as Charleston took their first loss of the season as the Hearts celebrated their second victory during its homecoming weekend
“We told them when we started, they’re going into war,” Payne said. “I want to go out there and do their jobs, play ball, and have some fun and do what they love to do.”
Charleston faces St. Joe-Ogden at home Thursday evening, working around the Easter holiday schedule.
“They’re offense looks a lot like this,” Payne said motioning to Effingham. “Their defense is actually the defense what we ran last year. They’ll walk up two outside linebackers off the edge so it’ll look like a five-man front. They’ll run out of the I-formation, run counters, power, and lead. It’s what we just faced today. They look pretty good, too. Every week is a fight.”