Hearts Win to Keep Playoff Hopes Alive


Published on October 13 2023 10:34 pm
Last Updated on October 13 2023 10:34 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

On a very special night at Klosterman Field at Washington Savings Bank Stadium, the Effingham Hearts played a very special game to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Hearts battled to a 21-14 victory over the Mt. Zion Braves in a game heard on 979XFM and www.979xfm.com

Effingham is now 4-4 on the season and a win at Centralia to close the regular season next week would make them playoff eligible. The team would then wait until the pairings come out the next night to see whether they made the postseason.

But, they had to beat Mt. Zion to make next week's game mean anything in that regard.

The Hearts beat a team that came into the action with a 6-1 record. Effingham got the ball rolling with 4:46 remaining in the first quarter at the conclusion of a three-play, 42-yard drive on a 34-yard touchdown run by Weldon Dunston. Maicol Sefton's kick made it 7-0.

Mt. Zion scored on a 31-yard run by quarterback Makobi Adams with 54 seconds left in the first quarter. The extra point made it 7-7.

The Hearts regained the lead with 3:41 left in the third quarter to conclude a 10-play, 62-yard drive on an 11-yard touchdown run by quarterback Gaige Gillum. Sefton's kick made it 14-7. 

Mt. Zion scored again with 11:52 left in the game on a one-yard run by Adams and an extra point kick to make it 14-14.

The Hearts then staged another touchdown drive, scoring with 6:10 remaining in the game on a 10-yard run by Dunston and Sefton's kick to make it 21-14. Then, the defense shut down the Braves to preserve the win.

Effingham put up 324 total yards, 261 yards on the ground, 63 through the air, and amassing 18 first downs, 12 on the ground. Mt. Zion was held to 10 first downs and 191 yards in total yardage. The Braves' vaunted air attack was held to under 100 yards.

After a rare shutdown at Mahomet last week, Hearts junior running back Weldon Dunston IV carried the ball 31 times for 183 yards and two touchdowns. Gillum rushed 18 times for 65 yards and a score. Gillum hit on six of nine pass attempts for 63 yards. Hunter Reed caught five passes for 55 yards and Colton Webb had an eight-yard reception.

Other Hearts stats: Maicol Sefton punted four times for 126 yards, and had three kickoffs for 133 yards. Jacob Weaver ran back two kickoffs for 46 yards and Dunston had a 19-yard return.

As far as the tackle sheet for the Hearts, here are the totals: Jacob Weaver 1, Michael Love 8, Kayden Mietzner 2, Kaden Koeberlein 3, Charlie Ring 3, Maddox Burner 1, Nick Martin 1, Wade Bushur 2, Spencer Fox 2, Zac Donaldson 6, Aiden Carrell 1, Logan Kessler 2. 

In addition to getting back to .500 and keeping a shot at the playoffs possible, the Hearts finished the conference season with a 3-2 mark. 

As far as the other things that made Friday night such a special occasion, four individuals were recognized for their years of service to Effingham football.

On behalf of the Effingham Sportsbackers, Mark Mayhood was saluted with a Sportsbacker Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was presented by Sportsbacker officers, Unit 40 administrators, and members of the Carl Koerner Sports Spectacular planning committee. Mayhood was recognized his involvement with the Sportsbackers since the mid-1980s, serving as President in 1987. He has also been the main Sportsbacker representative on the Carl P. Koerner Sports Spectacular golf outing for all 30 tournaments. The tournaments have raised some $1.5 million shared by the Sportsbackers and the St. Anthony Booster Club.

Awards were also presented to Scott Mosher and Sid Kibler for their longtime support of the Effingham High School football program. Mosher has been the voice of Klosterman Field for 32 seasons and is retiring after this football season. Kibler spotted football athletes in plays and called their numbers to Mosher for 31 seasons. He retired from the job after last season, but will still be around as the announcer for Hearts boys basketball games this coming season.

While Activity Director David Woltman recognized Mosher and Kibler, and Mosher recognized Mayhood, it was Unit 40 Superintendent Andy Johnson who recognized Woltman for his years of service. Woltman is retiring following this school year after more than 20 years as athletic director and activity director.