It all comes down to this for Effingham and Newton.
Both the Flaming Hearts and the Eagles have had up-and-down seasons and sit at 4-4, but both can play their way into playoff contention with a win Friday. Effingham heads to Mahomet-Seymour and Newton faces off with Paris on the road.
Wins would push both squads to 5-4, and both could make the playoffs on the strengths of their schedules via playoff points. Effingham played a strong non-conference schedule, with all three opponents knocking on the playoff door. They also faced Mattoon and take on a 7-1 Mahomet-Seymour team Friday.
Newton's non-conference schedule wasn't as difficult, but the Eagles did face an 8-0 Casey-Westfield team. Instead, their strength comes from in the conference, with games against 6-2 Lawrenceville, Robinson and Olney, with an upset against the Tigers.
Now, it's win or go home, and maybe get in with a win. But that's the way Effingham coach Mike McDonald likes it.
"You never know when your last practice is, I hate scheduling practices to be our last practice," he said. "We intend on winning games, making the playoffs.
Newton coach Jason Fulton echoed McDonald's comments, saying the team is prepared with a good attitude.
"It's been very positive," he said. "It's a week we've got to have, we know that. The team has really responded to understanding what's at stake this week."
Before last Friday, Mahomet-Seymour had crushed its opposition, winning seven straight by an average margin of 29.29 points per contest.
They played Normal University last Friday and lost 55-8 to the undefeated powerhouse, and now Effingham must give the Bulldogs their second straight loss.
Quarterback Joe Kenney has thrown for 1,601 yards this season and 17 touchdowns. The Bulldogs may be without running back Tyler Francisco, who had rushed for just under 900 yards entering last week's game. He was injured in the loss and could miss Friday's tilt.
"They like to throw the ball downfield, they've got four or five really good receivers and they've got a quarterback that can really launch it," McDonald said. "We're going to have to stop the running game with a number of people in the box, with the six in the box, and make sure they throw short. We've got to be disciplined in the secondary."
It'll come down to running the ball for Effingham, after success last week with Zach Miller and Billy Arndt.
"We've got to be able to control the line of scrimmage," McDonald said. "When we spread it out, the matchups they give us are not good. They like to blitz with the linebackers. It's going to be important to establish the ground game and use the play action passing game."
For the Eagles, they face a Paris team that has lost five of its last six games. The Tigers started 2-0 with wins over Cumberalnd and Watseka, but have only beaten Charleston since.
The key for Newton will be the offense. Paris hasn't won a gmae this season where they've allowed more than 14 points, and has given up an average of 47.4 points per game in their losses.
Effingham had a boatload of success running the ball during its 41-7 win over Paris, and Newton's offense has been clicking on the ground as of late.
Allen Taylor has been a workhorse, but the introduction of freshman Mitch Bierman into the backfield has sparked the offense since the Lawrenceville lost last month.
"We've just got to continue doing what we've been doing, which is running the ball effectively," Fulton said. "Paris' defense is better than what they've been given credit for. We've got to be able to throw the ball too."
Sophomore quarterback Brock Mammoser has been steady under center all season, hooking up with Austin Angel and Kyle Muska in the passing game, which can produce the big play when called upon.
Defense has been a struggle at times for Newton, as they've allowed under 30 points in a game just three times this season (all wins). Paris' offense has been shutout twice and only scored over 30 points twice, so Newton could match up well with the Tigers.
Still, Fulton said the Tiger offense was similar to their defense: potentially underrated.
"It's a little deceiving, I think their offense is actually pretty good," he said. "They can score, their quarterback, fullback, wide receiver. They create a lot of problems for us defensively with their speed."
To close out the slate, Cumberland (2-6) hosts a playoff-bound Olney Tigers (6-2) team on Senior Night Friday.
Olney has scored at least 21 points in every game this seasons, with its only losses coming to undefeated Casey-Westfield and Newton. Their defense has been strong for the most part, not allowing more than 21 points in all six of its wins.
Cumberland was eliminated from the playoffs two weeks ago with a loss to Edwards County and fell to Flora last week, but the Pirates are looking to close out a tough 2013 season on the right note.
All three games begin at 7 p.m.
It all comes down to this for Effingham and Newton.
Ziegler, Stone, Mette earn All-State HM
Three area players earned honorable mentions on the Associated Press Class 1A and 2A All-State boys basketball teams released Thursday.
Stew-Stras/Windsor co-op to challenge NTC
With seven starters from last season’s Stew-Stras softball team returning this spring and help from a co-op with Windsor, Comets head coach Kyle Knop said his team is looking to compete atop the National Trail Conference.
Czachorski: Saying bye to basketball
I can't claim to fully understand how it felt for the Dieterich Movin' Maroons and the Teutopolis Wooden Shoes Tuesday night, seeing an amazingly successful season come to an end.
Altamont's Ziegler named NTC MVP
One day after the season's of the final two area boys basketball teams ended, the National Trail Conference announced its All-NTC teams and named Altamont's Garrett Ziegler its most valuable player.
Sesser stops Dieterich
Dieterich held Sesser-Valier scoreless almost halfway through the fourth quarter, but the Movin’ Maroons only scored four points to that point.
Time kept ticking away on the Maroons, trailing by 12 points with 4:36 remaining; then their offense got on a roll. A 16-point deficit to begin the fourth quarter quickly turned into a small four points.
But the Maroons fumbled chances to cut into the lead, especially from the free throw line. They shot 43.8 percent from the line in their 57-48 Class 1A Super-Sectional loss on Tuesday in Carbondale.
Shoes' comeback falls short, 51-45
He said it gets worse each year.
Teutopolis head coach Andy Fehrenbacher was at a loss for words as to why and how the Wooden Shoes lost their fourth consecutive super-sectional on Tuesday.
“Not many programs can say they’ve gotten this far four times in a row, but when you don’t break through, it makes it harder and harder each year,” Fehrenbacher said. “I’m at such a loss and I’m empty inside.”
The Shoes fell 51-45 against Nashville in the Class 2A Super-Sectional, making for what Fehrenbacher said will be another tough offseason.
Maroons hoping first time's the charm
In two years at the helm of the Dieterich Movin' Maroons, Jeff Staser is 45-17 with a trip to the regional final in 2013, and regional and sectional crowns in 2014.
In the process, he's brought Dieterich to uncharted territory, as the Maroons will play in its first-ever Super-Sectional game tonight against Sesser-Valier at 6 p.m. at Southern Illinois University.
Shoes "ready to break through"
The eight Teutopolis Wooden Shoes seniors have accomplished enough to make almost every other high school in Illinois jealous.
Three area runners medal at SIU
A pair of area runners started off the track season with a bang, as St. Anthony's Anna Sophia Keller and Cumberland's Tye Sutherland took home first-place medals in the opening meet of the season Saturday.
Teutopolis advances to 4th straight Super-Sectional
Teutopolis couldn't have started each of the first three quarters any better.
The Wooden Shoes Shoes took an 11-0 lead in the first five minutes of the first quarter and started the second and third quarters on 7-0 and 9-0 runs, respectively.
Their third-quarter outburst gave them the 17-point lead that was too much for Greenville to come back from. The Shoes won 64-53 to advance to Tuesday's Class 2A Carbondale Super-Sectional at Southern Illinois University. It's Teutopolis' fourth-straight trip to the Super-Sectional round.
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