Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL


October 17, 2013

Playoff hopes on the line for Hearts, Eagles

Effingham at Mt. Zion, 7 p.m. FridayBoth teams' playoff hopes are on the line Friday night as Effingham heads to Mt. Zion in a showdown between 3-4 Apollo Conference teams. A loss would officially eliminate either team from playoff contention, and while neither team would automatically qualify with two wins, both the Flaming Hearts and the Braves would likely make the playoffs on the strength of their difficult non-conference schedules. Mt. Zion started the season 0-4 with losses to undefeated Mahomet-Seymour and Highland, as well as losses to 5-2 Jersey and Mattoon. Their three straight wins have come on the back of running back Austin Ray. Ray had a solid start to the season in the Braves' four losses, but has cleared 180 yards rushing in each of the last three games, all Mt. Zion wins. Effingham had a three-game win streak of its own snapped last week in a conference-clinching 46-28 win for Mattoon over Effingham. It was the big play the bit the Hearts late, as they allowed four touchdowns of 60 yards or more. Ray has shown breakaway ability, so shutting down the Mt. Zion back will be key. That is easier said than done, as Ray was averaging more than 100 yards per contest before the three-game win streak. A win would lock up second-place in the conference at worst for either team. Mt. Zion could still share the conference title with Mattoon if the Green Wave fall to 3-4 Paris. The Braves have not won a game this year where they have scored less than 42 points, and have only allowed less than 30 points in a game once. Effingham has shown a flair for the big play of its own, whether it be from Marcus Robinson, Zach Miller, Billy Arndt or Matt Wohltman. It should be an offensive showdown in Mt. Zion Friday.

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