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.
Effingham football coach Mike McDonald to retire at year's end
The idea of retirement has been on Effingham football coach Mike McDonald's mind for a while.
But he's finally acting on it, as McDonald announced that he plans to retire as the head coach of the Flaming Hearts at the end of the 2014 season.
Switching it up; Newton's Mammoser trying his hands at switch pitching
American Legion fans around the central Illinois area have started to hear of Newton’s Brock Mammoser.
The pole vaulter, point guard and quarterback also finds time for the baseball field, and while he routinely sat in the middle of the order for Post 20 played shortstop and first base with flair, there’s one thing everyone came back to.
He’s a switch pitcher. Mammoser took to the mound left and right for Newton, literally, pitching games with both his left and his right arm.
It all started with a half-hearted suggestion a few years back.
Czachorski: Extra innings intrigue unmatched
Obscenely long baseball games are my kryptonite. Once I get sucked in, it’s impossible for me to stop watching until it’s over. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Cubs, the Cardinals, the Astros or the Mariners — if it’s on TV and it’s going into the twelfth inning or later, you can bet I’m finding a way to tune in.
Newton's season ends in 14-4 loss
Newton Post 20 almost pulled another comeback off against the Orient Miners, cutting a 5-1 deficit to 5-4 midway through Monday night’s game.
But Newton’s Junior Legion Fifth Division tournament run came to an end, as Orient rattled off nine runs in the sixth inning and clinched a spot in the state tournament with a 14-4 win.
Comeback win keeps Post 20 alive in 10-7 win
Newton Post 120 didn’t let a 4-1 deficit get to them against Highland Post 439, using a patient approach in the face of an elimination game.
Three bases-loaded walks in the bottom of the third tied the game at 4-4, and with the bases loaded down 5-4 in the fourth, Tim Weber broke the game open with a two-run double and an error.
By the time the dust settled, Newton led 10-5 heading to the sixth inning and would hold on to a 10-7 win to keep its season alive.
Salem deals Newton first divisional loss
Mitch Bierman started off Newton Post 20’s game against Salem Post 128 with a bang Sunday afternoon, hitting a leadoff triple and scoring on the next batter.
Post 20’s offense didn’t follow his lead from there, as Newton had just three more hits and no runs, and falling in a Junior Legion Fifth Division winner’s bracket game to Salem 12-1 in seven innings.
Newton Post 20 bests Belleville Post 58 in opener 6-1
After a 9-3 loss to Breese Post 252 Gray Monday night, Newton Post 20 coach John Grunloh predicted the five-day break until the Junior Legion Fifth Division tournament would be good for his players, especially his pitchers.Mitch Jansen proved his coach right, spinning a gem in Newton's opener Saturday afternoon as Post 20 made short work of Belleville Post 58 6-1.
Hearts to prep with Mattoon 7-on-7
Two weeks ago, Effingham was supposed to start shaking off the rust with a 7-on-7 football tournament in Mattoon. Naturally, it rained and was canceled.
So Saturday, the Flaming Hearts will head up to Mattoon and play their first 7-on-7 event of the season, taking part in an 10- team field with Mattoon, Rochester, Robinson, Marshall, Cahokia and Pleasant Plains from Illinois, with Terre Haute North and Northview coming from Indiana. Rochester is bringing two squads.
Newton Post 20 plays Belleville Saturday
With the District 23 tournament behind them, Newton Post 20 now knows its fate for the Fifth Division Junior Legion tournament this weekend in Bethalto.
Newton will play Belleville Post 58 at 2:45 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Bethalto, in the third game of six on the day.
Effingham's season comes to a close with 11-1 loss to Salem
A 1-0 lead for Effingham Post 120 rapidly evaporated, and the post’s Junior Legion season came to an end with a 11-1 loss in five innings to Salem Post 128 Tuesday night.
The game was for the final spot of District 23 in the divisional tournament, with Newton Post 20 and Breese Post 252 Gray punching their tickets by winning their district divisions.
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