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Effingham’s Caden Walls (left) and Tanner Pontious (right) celebrate after a touchdown during a football game against Mattoon, Friday, September 17, 2021, at Klosterman Field.

For nearly the entire game, nothing seemed to go in Effingham's direction.

However, the Flaming Hearts found a sliver of hope in the waning moments Friday night against Mattoon (2-2, 2-1 Apollo Conference) that gave them a chance.

With 2:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, junior quarterback Tanner Pontious dropped back and found junior wide receiver Armando Estrada in stride for a 79-yard score to make it a six-point game, 20-14, with plenty of time left. That play awakened an otherwise quiet crowd at Klosterman Field, too.

Even with the crowd behind them, though, the Hearts couldn't find a way to come out on top as Effingham's attempt to tie the game ended with an interception and Mattoon's sideline celebrating.

After the touchdown, the Flaming Hearts forced the Green Wave to punt, which turned out to be a successful attempt, as Mattoon pinned Effingham (1-3, 1-2 Apollo Conference) in the red zone, forcing them to drive nearly the length of the field to tie the game. They also only had just over one minute to do it.

Time was not on their side, which proved to be costly for the Hearts.

On the first play of the series, Pontious found sophomore wide receiver Jacob Weaver for an 18-yard gain that moved the chains. Then, he found Estrada on the far sideline for nine yards, but the clock continued to run after he failed to get out of bounds to stop it.

Thirty seconds were left, leaving the Flaming Hearts to act quickly.

On the next play, Pontious rolled out to his left and rushed toward the sideline. He gained six yards on the play but still couldn't get out of bounds to stop the clock, forcing Effingham to snap the ball quickly and spike it, ultimately setting up the game-sealing interception and ending another night for the Hearts that left them leaving with more questions than answers.

The Hearts finished with six penalties, including three holding infractions that bit them one too many times in the end.

In addition to that, they also could never find a way to stop senior quarterback Jackson Spurgeon or senior wide receiver Derrius White.

Spurgeon threw for 214 yards and one touchdown.

White caught eight passes for 143 yards and a 49-yard touchdown on the Green Wave's first drive of the game. He also added an interception return for a touchdown after stripping Estrada on the near sideline in the third quarter.

"They got a very good quarterback that's started every year and a very good receiver. We did not cover him well, and we did not pressure the quarterback very well," Hefner said. "We did not keep the quarterback in the pocket very well."

Altogether, it was a recipe for disaster for the Hearts, who could never get over the hump on a night where they typically are the ones celebrating.

Effingham hosted Military Appreciation Night Friday night, with this one being more heart-wrenching than most.

Before the game, the entire team came to the field, surrounding 13 chairs sitting adjacent to the scoreboard. The chairs were there to honor the troops killed during the Afghanistan attack in late August.

"It's a great evening," Hefner said. "The community has done a great job. We started it a number of years ago. The moms got involved in it and got the jerseys. We got a class at school that makes the t-shirts, and we give all the money to the veteran's organization. So, it's a very good night; this is the first time that it wasn't a winning night, and that's a tough one to take."

UP NEXT

Effingham travels to Taylorville in Week 5 for a matchup against the Tornadoes.

Contact EDN Sports Editor Alex Wallner at 217-347-7151 ext. 124 or alex.wallner@effinghamdailynews.com

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