Things couldn’t have started out better for Effingham Friday night, as Matt Wolhtman scooped up a fumble just more than a minute into the game and took it 27 yards for a touchdown.
That touchdown would be Effingham’s only one for much of the game, as that glimmer of hope faded and Effingham lost 18-12 to Paxton-Buckley-Loda Friday night.
The Flaming Hearts had plenty of chances and plenty of moments of hope, even having the ball down 18-12 with 4:25 left. But the offense never found its footing outside of a fourth quarter touchdown drive.
For coach Mike McDonald, it came down to too many mistakes and turnovers, just like during the Hearts’ 34-15 season-opening loss to Breese Mater Dei.
“Those things make differences, and we have to play through those things,” he said. “Towards the end, it was just turnovers that hurt us. That continues to plague us.”
After the early touchdown, PBL responded quickly as Nate Schrodt took his first carry over the game 65 yards to the Effingham four-yard line. He scored two plays later from three yards out to make it 7-6 Panthers.
The teams would keep flipping possession as the Heart defense stood tall. On the first play of the second quarter, PBL went for it on 4th-and-8 from the Effingham 14. Weston Webber had an open throwing lane to Trent Wooten, but he bobbled it and Wohltman deflected the pass away for a turnover on downs.
Effingham would immediately go three and out. The Panthers kept driving again, moving the ball quickly down the to the Effingham six on 1st-and-5. Again, the Hearts stood tall. Weber ran a QB keeper on 4th-and-3 and was stopped a yard short of the first down by Griffin Paige.
“(The defense) kept us in the game, they scored the first touchdown,” McDonald said. “They did a great job when they needed to.”