SALEM — Through the first 42, 40 seconds of Friday night’s game between Effingham and Salem, the Hearts had exactly zero pass completions against the Salem Wildcats.
Passes had been sailing over receivers’ heads, landing at their feet, bouncing off their hands, and that was only when quarterback Nathan Vail was actually able to field a snap cleanly in the rainy, muddy conditions.
But, a simple out route by Caydin Vaughn with 5:20 left in the fourth quarter changed everything, leading to a dramatic, come-from-behind 14-13 overtime victory for the Hearts.
Vaughn caught Vail’s pass, turned up field, and 11 yards later, picked up a first down.
From that point, until the end of the game, Vail and his receivers were in sync, connecting on passes and drawing pass interference penalties en route to game-tying 25-yard touchdown pass to Drew Levitt with 1:12 remaining.
Just like that, a disappointing, penalty and mistake-riddled game was wiped out, and the Hearts began anew.
With the score knotted at 7 at the end of regulation, the squads headed into an overtime period, which began with a 5-yard touchdown run by running back Paul Moskal on the Wildcats’ possession.
But Jacob Maxey missed the extra point, and the Hearts took over with four downs to score a touchdown and extra point to win the game, or face the possibilitiy of a harrowing 0-5 start to their season.
They’d only need one play. That simple out route from Vail to Vaughn, the same play that started the dramatic turnaround, again worked to perfection, going for 10 yards and the game-tying touchdown.
Effingham kicker Zach Miller then drilled the extra point, straight and ture through the uprights and was mobbed shortly thereafter by a group of teammates, the weight of their 0-4 start lifted with a thrilling victory.
Head coach Mike McDonald said he was proud of his team’s perseverance in the face of adversity.