Sep. 24—Evan Waymoth and Weldon Dunston had their running shoes on Friday night at a wet and soggy Klosterman Field at Washington Savings Bank Stadium.
The running back duo for the Hearts (3-2, 3-1 Apollo Conference) accrued 176 rushing yards and five total touchdowns in the first half in Effingham's 48-13 victory over Taylorville (1-4, 0-3 Apollo Conference). The win marked the third straight for the Hearts and third-consecutive victory over the Tornadoes. Effingham is now 4-3 against Taylorville since head coach Brett Hefner took over the football program in 2015.
"We did a lot of things well," said Hefner of his team's first-half performance Friday. "The special teams were big. Armando is a weapon on the kickoff by pinning them, but getting a couple of punt blocks like we did to give ourselves short fields is one way to offset everything if you don't have explosive plays."
Effingham may not have had many explosive plays throughout the contest, but one thing the Hearts did do was provide efficiency, starting with their opening drive.
Following a six-play Tornadoes' drive to open the game, Effingham responded with a blocked punt that the Hearts returned to their 39-yard line.
From there, all Effingham did was use five plays to find the endzone.
Waymoth provided all of the offense in the opening series. He collected 39 yards on the drive, culminating with a nine-yard score to make it 7-0 with 7:03 left.
Effingham's defense then followed that score by forcing Taylorville to punt after a quick three-and-out before Waymoth scored again after another five-play drive ended with a one-yard scamper to make it 13-0 following the missed point-after with 4:08 remaining.
Both teams then traded three-and-outs after the touchdown before Taylorville finally got something moving in their direction.
Sophomore running back Finn Niemann opened the Tornadoes' fourth drive with back-to-back rushes, gaining 11 yards in the process.
However, nothing came of the drive, as sophomore quarterback Baron Odam fumbled the football after a high snap that led to him getting tackled at the Effingham 17-yard line.
Odam then got sacked for another loss that pushed the Tornadoes back to the 10-yard line before he heaved a pass incomplete on third-down that forced Taylorville to punt.
The Hearts eventually found themselves with excellent field position following the punt, ultimately leading to another Waymoth score that made it 20-0 with 10:54 to go in the second quarter.
Effingham's first-half dominance didn't stop there, however.
After a Logan Heil fumble recovery on the Tornadoes' next drive, Effingham only needed two plays to find the endzone once again.
Dunston opened the drive with a five-yard gain that pushed the Hearts to the 19-yard line before he found paydirt one play later after bouncing off an initial defender and scoring after finding room on the right side of the field. It was his first of two touchdowns in the first half.
"He was a little bit more comfortable tonight," Hefner said. "It took him a little while to get going, as anything comes back from an injury. I thought his first series, he didn't trust it, and as the game went on, he got more comfortable, which that's natural coming back from an injury."
Dunston scored once more in the second half, while senior Muhammad Freeman also scored his first touchdown of the year before being happily greeted by his teammates on the sideline.
That strong running attack might not have been as potent if it weren't for the defense, though, which Hefner eluded to afterward.
"We continue to do a lot of things well," Hefner said. "I love our kids' efforts. I love their effort to the ball, and John [Stout] does a great job of putting those guys into positions, and our kids are handling gameplans well. They know all the adjustments, they know all the checks. If you combine that with the effort they play, good things will happen."
Effingham finished with eight tackles for loss and six sacks in the first half and only continued that dominance into the second half; something the Hearts hope will continue in Week 6 when they take on Mt. Zion for Homecoming.
Contact EDN Sports Editor Alex Wallner at 618-510-9231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.