Effingham Hosts Murphysboro Saturday in 4A Final Four Battle


Published on November 21 2019 6:38 pm
Last Updated on November 21 2019 6:38 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

The Effingham Flaming Hearts are one win away from a berth in the Class 4A state championship game. Standing in their way...the Murphysboro Red Devils. 

The semifinal contest between the 11-1 Hearts and the 10-2 Red Devils is set for Saturday. The kickoff at Klosterman Field is set for 2pm. The contest will be heard on 979XFM and www.979xfm.com. Admission is $8.00 per person. Exact change would be appreciated.

This is the second time an Effingham team has reached the semifinals. The first trip was to the 3A Final Four in 1980. This trip through the playoffs includes an extra round, so this is the first time an Effingham squad has reached the fourth round. The winner of Saturday's game will head to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb for the 4A state championship game on Friday night, November 29, at 7pm.

This is also the second Murphysboro team to advance to the semifinal round; the previous trip was in 1988.

This is the third Murphysboro team to record 10 wins in a single season; this is the first time for Effingham, but the Hearts won nine games in a season 11 times prior to this year.

The Red Devils lost their season opener to Carbondale 32-29, but won at Anna-Jonesboro 48-8, then posted three straight shutouts; 49-0 over Carterville, 27-0 over Massac County and 41-0 over Herrin.

However, a Murphysboro teachers' strike caused the cancelation of the Red Devils' October 4 game, which was forfeited to West Frankfort, 1-0.

Since then, Murphysboro has won six straight games; 49-7 over Harrisburg, 41-0 over Benton, and 46-13 over DuQuoin to end the regular season. In the playoffs, the Red Devils have defeated Bethalto Civic Memorial 20-14, Chillicothe IVC 28-14, and Kankakee McNamara last week 35-27.

That means the Red Devils haven't lost a game they've played since Opening Night.

But now, a word about Effingham.

The Hearts opened their season with a 32-28 win at Breese Mater Dei before opening their conference season with a 46-7 win over Lincoln. The Hearts posted a 34-28 win at Jerseyville then beat Mahomet-Seymour 49-7. The Hearts won at Charleston 35-14 before blanking Mattoon 42-0. Effingham then won 48-6 at Taylorville before suffering their only loss of the season 37-23 at Mt. Zion. The Hearts rebounded to close the regular season with a 42-14 win over Freeburg.

In the playoffs, Effingham pounded Breese Central 55-13 and Benton 42-7, then won at Fairbury Prairie Central 27-14 last week to reach the semifinals.

The Hearts have continued a three-season run of record-setting performances this year. As evidence of that, Hearts quarterback Nathan Shackelford was named to the 4A All-State Team selected by the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association this week. Shackelford has completed 146 of 219 passes for 2,459 yards and 32 touchdowns. He has also rushed 105 times for 778 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hearts receiver Tristin Duncan received Honorable Mention All-State.

Murphysboro landed two starters on the 4A All-State Team, both on defense: linebacker Zane Caraway and offensive lineman Jameirr Frazier.

The winner of the Effingham/Murphysboro game will take on the winner of the Coal City/Richmond-Burton game, set for 2pm Saturday at Coal City.

There aren't many teams from the region remaining in the playoffs; in 1A, Central A&M plays at Athens at 2pm Saturday; in 2A, Nashville is at Decatur St. Teresa at 1pm Saturday; in 5A, Rochester is at Mascoutah at 5pm Saturday.