Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

October 17, 2013

Playoff hopes on the line for Hearts, Eagles

RYAN CZACHORSKI
Daily News

---- — 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.

Edwards County at Newton, 7 p.m. FridayDespite being outscored by more than 100 points for the season, Newton has a shot at the playoffs of its own after an 34-33 overtime upset over Olney Friday night. The Eagles now sit at 3-4 overall, and could qualify for the playoffs with two straight wins. The Eagles' opponents have racked up 33 wins on the year, and Newton could sneak into the playoffs with two straight wins on playoff points. The first of those two games is Friday, when the Eagles face an Edwards County Lions squad that is coming off their first win of the season over Cumberland. Newton has become very deft at the heart-pounding win, as all three of the Eagles' wins have been by one point.Edwards County (1-6) gave up 178 yards to Cumberland's Holden Elwood Friday night, and may have to deal with two tough Newton backs Friday. Allen Taylor has been Newton's workhorse all year, but the emergence of freshman Mitch Bierman since the Lawrenceville loss on Sept. 21 has added a new wrinkle to the Eagle offense. Bierman had 145 yards, two touchdowns and the game-winning two-point conversion in the Eagles' win over the Tigers. Brock Mammoser continues to be solid under center, and with the running game picking up, Kyle Muska and Austin Angel could see looser coverage on the outside. The Eagles are done with divisional play, and travel to Paris next Friday to end their season.

Cumberland at Flora, 7 p.m. FridayCumberland's postseason dreams came to an end Friday night at the hands of a previously winless Edwards County squad. Still, the Pirates (2-5, 2-3) can make inroads heading into 2014 in their final two games of the season, starting at Flora Friday. Flora has struggled in LIC play, losing all five of their games against Egyptian Division foes but winning two against the Eastern Division. The Wolves haven't won this season when allowing more than eight points, but Cumberland's offense has been a sticking point at times. Even in the loss, the Pirates scored 18 points against Edwards County, their second-highest mark on the season. Cumberland will look to run the ball, as always, and will lean on Holden Elwood, Dylan Martin and Monte Wolke. Elwood scored twice with 178 yards against the Lions, and Martin carried the ball for 78 yards of his own. In Cumberland's 50-36 win over Red Hill, Wolke carried the ball 19 times for 204 yards, and Martin had 94 yards of his own. That mixture could lead to a Cumberland win against a defense that has struggled to keep oppositions off the board.