---- — It was a clash of styles at Bulldog Field Thursday between the Effingham offense and the St. Anthony defense.
St. Anthony had recorded four shutouts in six games coming in to Thursday, while Effingham's offense scored six times on Vandalia and eight times against Pana.
But in the end, it was both defenses that shined, as the game ended in a scoreless 0-0 tie after 80 minutes.
"Today, by far, the best defensive game of the year (for us)," said Effingham coach Aaron Witges. "It was tough, both teams played their hearts out. I don't think it was probably their best game execution-wise, and it wasn't our best game execution-wise offensively."
St. Anthony coach Scott Demers agreed with his counterpart's assessment of the Flaming Heart defense.
"Their coach and I, we know how we do things," Demers said. "When I go to a formation, he knows how to adjust to it. His team did a lot to keep us from getting open looks. Everything was contested."
Effingham had the two best chances of the day, coming nearly 75 minutes apart. Just 37 seconds in to the game, Effingham's Tyler Katz let a rocket go at the top left corner of the net, only to be saved on a jumping effort from St. Anthony's Zach Tegeler.
Their other great chance came with 5:28 remaining. Andrew Knight brought the ball down the left side and hit a nice cross to the right at the feet of Austin Wenthe. Wenthe whiffed, but the ball kept going right to Jason Pike. He ripped a line drive at the net, but Tegeler came up big with a save and punched the rebound back over the net.
Each team had a few other opportunities from there, but neither would be able to put the ball in the back of the net.
"I couldn't hardly see it, the sun was shining right in to our face," Witges said of the Pike shot. "It was high, toward the top 90, their keeper did a great job getting his hands on it."
Effingham controlled possession for most of the first half on the east side of the field. They had a number of opportunities near the net, including a pair of corner kicks after Katz' early near-goal.
Despite the chances and aggressive offensive efforts in the first, the St. Anthony defense held firm.
"Michael Carie, with him and his touch, I was sure he was going to have a goal," Demers said. "I had to put a lot of guys back to compensate, they would put eight guys in the box. That's hard to cover."
When the field turned over at half, St. Anthony controlled the tempo and possession heading to the east again. Jonas Armberg took possession near the net six minutes into the half and tried to kick it across the goal box, only for the ball to take an odd deflection and almost end up as a goal off an Effingham player.
Many of the Bulldogs signaled they thought the ball went in, but the game remained scoreless. Ninety seconds later, Benton Hakman hit Frank Jansen on a corner kick, but Jansen's header went over the net and keeper Frank Kasdorf.
Kasdorf finished the game with 11 saves and Tegeler tallied seven for St. Anthony.
It was St. Anthony's fifth shutout and third tie, but the defense to offense transition could use some work, Demers said.
"I've always believed defense wins; in this case, it ties," he said. "When you have a zero or a one, it shows you're not getting it from one side to the other. We're getting it there, but we're not getting it there enough."
St. Anthony is now 3-1-3, and they play Breese Mater Dei Saturday. Effingham's record moves to 3-3-1, and the Flaming Hearts open up conference play Saturday when they host Mattoon at 10 a.m.
Effingham 0 0 0
St. Anthony 0 0 0