Effingham Daily News
MT. ZION —
The ground game was a back-and-forth battle between Mt. Zion and Effingham Friday night, with both teams' playoff hopes on the line.
Mt. Zion's Austin Ray carried the ball 24 times for 252 yards, but Zach Miller and Billy Arndt teamed up for 32 carries and 311 yards as Effingham edged Mt. Zion 27-20.
Arndt had touchdown runs of five yards, 53 yards and 80 yards on three consecutive carries as Effingham built a 27-12 lead in the first half.
From there, it was the defense that slowed down Ray, who had a 39-yard touchdown and 73-yard touchdown in the first quarter alone.
"Our offense helped keep us in the game," said Effingham coach Mike McDonald. "Our defense won the game for us from there on out. They've had some huge comebacks."
While Ray got his yardage from there, the defense held stout as the offense was shut out in the second half.
Mt. Zion got its lone score of the second half on a touchdown pass from Payton Grinestaff to Mason Bruce, and Grinestaff nearly hooked up with Matt Gensler late in the fourth quarter on fourth down to give Mt. Zion a chance to take the lead.
Gensler dropped it and Effingham hung on from there. Again, McDonald was quick to credit his defense.
"Most of that damage was done early, I'm not sure exactly what the adjustments were, I'm pretty sure we didn't make many, we just started playing smarter," he said.
Miller led Effingham in rushing with 24 carries and 157 yards, while Arndt was the big play man with eight carries for 154 yards and three scores.
Arndt got loose on a quick run up the middle last week for a long touchdown against Mattoon, and McDonald went back to that well early and often Friday.
"We hit it once and we hit it big," McDonald said. "That's what happens when teams are playing us man. Billy's a big kid, but he's faster than what people gave him credit for. They didn't adjust to it until after halftime."
Dylan Wolff had the Flaming Hearts' other score, scoring on a five-yard run in the first quarter. He completed five passes for 102 yards, with four of those going to Carter Hayes for 70 yards. Wolff extended a drive on fourth and 20 with a 32-yard pass to Matt Wohltman, culminating in Arndt's first touchdown run.
Defensive statistics were not available as of press time.
The win moves Effingham to 4-4 overall, and they finish the season 4-1 in the Apollo Conference, good for second overall.
They head to Mahomet-Seymour in a must-win matchup next Friday night for their playoff hopes. A win will likely get the Hearts in on playoff points.
Mahomet-Seymour entered Friday night undefeated, but were crushed by Normal University 55-8. Still, it is a tall task for Effingham, but one they'll have to face.
"They beat us in overtime (last year), 17-14," McDonald said. "That's something we can take with us, the momentum we got from our win tonight. We played well in our road games so far this year, and obviously, we have to play well next week."
Effingham 7 20 0 0 27
Mt. Zion 12 0 0 8 20
UNOFFICIAL EFFINGHAM STATS
Rushing: Miller 24-157-0, Arndt 8-154-3, Wolff 9-12-1
Passing: Wolff 5-12-102 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Receiving: Hayes 4-70-0; Wohltman 1-32-0