The Effingham Flaming Hearts will enter Klosterman Field for the last time on the 2019 season Saturday with a chance of advancing to the state championship on the line when they host Murphysboro.
Murphysboro enters following a 35-27 win over Bishop McNamara in the quarterfinal and with a 10-2 record overall coming out of the Southern Illinoi River-to-River-Ohio Football Conference.
The one similar opponent the Flaming Hearts and the Red Devils shared this season was Benton. The Red Devils defeated the Rangers in Week 8 41-0, while the Flaming Hearts defeated them in the second round of the playoffs, 42-7.
The two sides couldn’t be more different offensively, as the Red Devils operate out of a Wing-T style offense, which features more misdirection than an option offense.
“It’s an offense you don’t see much,” said Effingham head coach Brett Hefner. “25 years ago, lots of teams ran it. It relies on misdirection and movement.
“It presents challenges. It’s tough to represent in practice. A lot of jet sweeps and getting their athletes to the edge. We’re going to have to be disciplined”
The Flaming Hearts are able to play different styles of offense and can change from a power run team to spread team to utilize space.
The duo of Nate Shackelford and Tristin Duncan will look to remain in sync after the two hooked up for a touchdown last week in the win over Prairie Central. The duo has hooked up for over 1,200 yards through the air and 12 touchdown passes on the season.
The Flaming Hearts are also able to utilize tight ends in the passing game, as Jett Gillum has 34 catches for 489 yards and nine touchdowns this season, all second on the team. Jacob Briggerman has turned his eight receptions on the season into 96 yards and three touchdowns.
On defense however, Hefner likens the Red Devils defense to themselves.
“They’re similar size to us. They’re a bit smaller, but fast and physical,” Hefner said. “They strike tackle and hit with authority. It’s a lost art.”
Going into the game Saturday, Hefner isn’t asking his players to do anything outside of themselves.
“They just have to be them,” Hefner said. “When you get into these games, you can’t lose site of what got you there. I think last week we almost tried too hard at times. We need to stay relaxed and make the plays we’re capable of making.
“Playing at home is big for us. You have the crowd and are able to go into the routine of what we normally do for home games.”
One thing that Hefner and his team have benefited from all season is taking advantage of the other team’s players who play both offense and defense, knowing that late in the game, they might not be as fast or sharp as the first half.
All three of the Red Devils’ potential ball-carriers out of the Wing-T play both ways and could again prove a factor on Saturday down the stretch.
The winner of this semifinal contest will take on the winner of Coal City and Richmond.