A number of early mistakes put Effingham in a big hole in its season opener against Breese Mater Dei Friday night and the Hearts couldn't climb out, falling 34-15.
The Knights scored 28 of the game's first 31 points, and while the Flaming Hearts kept fighting in the second, the lead was insurmountable.
"Too many mistakes, gave them good field position and they took advantage," said Effingham coach Mike McDonald.
Following an early 30-yard touchdown pass from Breese's Sam Toennies to Nick Hitpas, Effingham trailed 7-0. A long drive showed some promise as quarterback Kevin Daugherty hit a 34-yard pass to Marcus Robinson and a 15-yarder to Matt Wohltman to bring Effingham to the one-yard line.
A fumbled snap set Effingham back four yards, and the Hearts couldn't punch it in after that, settling for a 23-yard field goal to cut the score to 7-3.
The Hearts forced a three-and-out, but couldn't move the ball themselves. On fourth and 22, the Hearts lined up to punt.
Or so it seemed. A fake punt was executed from the Hearts' 26 for no gain, giving Breese prime field position.
Six plays later on fourth and goal from the one, Toennies ran it in on an option to make it 14-3.
"We had miscommunication when we should have been punting," McDonald said. "We wanted to punt the ball out of there, miscommunication on that, and we ran the ball and gave them good field position."
The teams traded possession, but Breese's late second quarter punt turned into a missed Hearts opportunity. Sophomore Drew Vasquez muffed the punt and Austin Timmermann recovered for the Knights. Effingham looked to have stopped them on third down near the end zone, but Wohltman was called for pass interference. Two plays later, Jordan Raterman scored and sent Breese to the locker rooms up 20-3.
Raterman scored again on an 11-yard run on the Knights' first possession of the second half. Toennies hit Jordan Thole for a 47-yard pass to set up Raterman, where Thole broke a few tackles on his way to the Effingham 15.
"We had some situations where we had a stop for a two-yard gain, and it's an eight-yard gain and a first down," McDonald said. "You make a tackle there, it stops the drive."
Effingham's offense began to wake up as they turned to the pass. Daugherty led a six-play drive following Ratermann's touchdown, going five-of-six for 60 yards culminating in a fade pass to Zach Miller for a 16-yard touchdown with 5:54 remaining. The extra point was missed to make it 28-9.
Breese cut nearly six minutes from the clock on its next drive. Ratermann found the end zone again on a one-yard score on the first play of the fourth quarter, making it 34-9.
The Flaming Hearts scored the game's final touchdown with 4:39 to play. On fourth and 10 from the Breese 45, Daugherty found Wohltman wide open over the field for a 45-yard score to cut the lead to 34-15.
Still, despite the success of the passing game, McDonald was hoping for more balance offensively. Effingham ran just four run plays in the second half.
"Up front, offensively, we didn't do a very good job blocking," he said. "Our run game should have been better.
It got to the point where our best alternative was throwing the ball. We want to be up in the 60, 65 perecent passing completion.
Miller led the team with 31 yards rushing on 12 carries. Billy Arndt had seven yards on two carries and Trent Barnhart had eight yards rushing.
Daugherty was 12-for-23 for 186 yards, two scores and an interception. Wohltman had six catches for 85 yards and a score, Robinson caught three passes for 50 yards and Dylan Wolff had one catch for 31 yards.
Defensively, Brandon Loy had eight tackles, Miller notched seven tackles and Noah Hagen had six tackles with a first-quarter interception.
"I thought defensively, we actually played pretty well," McDonald said. "We had some good things."
The Flaming Hearts are coming off a 2-7 season, and were beaten by Breese Mater Dei 49-7 in last year's season opener at Breese.
Effingham (0-1) continues its home stand next Friday, taking on Paxton-Buckley-Loda at 7 p.m. PBL won its opener 21-6 against El Paso-Gridley Friday night.
"They're not going to spread it out like this, it's going to be a totally opposite game plan for us," McDonald said.
Breese Mater Dei 7 13 8 6 34
Effingham 3 0 6 6 15
Passing: Daugherty (E) 12/23, 186 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; Toennies (BMD) 16/21, 202 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Miller (E) 12 carries, 31 yards; Ratermann (BMD) 23 carries, 91 yards, 3 TD; Toennies (MBD) 7 carries, 4 yards, 1 TD
Receving: Wohltman (E) 6 catches, 85 yards, TD; Robinson (E) 3 catches, 50 yards; Hitpas (BMD) 5 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD; Thole (BMD) 4 catches, 79 yards