TOUGH END: Back-and-forth second half ends with 36-30 overtime loss for Effingham against Mt. Carmel

Sep. 3—EFFINGHAM — All looked lost.

The Effingham football team couldn't muster many positive plays through the first half against Mt. Carmel on Friday night at Klosterman Field at Washington Savings Bank Stadium.

The Flaming Hearts finished the first half with 56 total yards.

However, what the first half was wasn't what the second half turned out to be.

An exciting, back-and-forth 24 minutes had everything you could ask for, except the result wasn't what the hosts wanted. Effingham (1-1) fell to Mt. Carmel, 36-30, in overtime.

The Golden Aces (1-1), who played their first game in Illinois after a Week 1 matchup against an out-of-state opponent, started the fireworks at the end of the first half.

With the ball at the Hearts' 41-yard line, senior quarterback and Southern Illinois Carbondale-bound Blayne Sisson threw a deep ball to senior wide receiver Andrew Gillihan, who leaped up and caught the ball before being tackled at the two-yard line.

Sisson then found Gillihan on the very next play for a touchdown to make it 6-0 before senior kicker Shade Loudermilk tacked on the extra point.

"The issue with the first half is that we never had field position," Effingham head coach Brett Hefner said. "So, you're playing well defensively and you never have field position. You get the ball to start the second half and at that point, you're trying to survive the first half and get out."

The Hearts would start the second half nicely, opening the third with a touchdown on its first drive.

On their third play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Gaige Gillum lofted a pass to senior wide receiver Andrew Lotz, who strolled into the end zone from 59 yards out uncovered after a blown assignment to make it 7-6. Sophomore Maicol Sefton then added the extra point to tie the game.

Effingham then forced a punt on the next Mt. Carmel possession.

The Hearts followed that with a 14-play drive, ending with a Gillum score from the goal line to give Effingham a 14-7 lead after the Sefton extra-point.

Senior fullback Hunter Reed caught three passes during the drive. Junior running back Weldon Dunston also had gains of 10 and nine yards.

The Sisson and Gillihan connection then struck again on the Golden Aces' next drive, as the two hooked up from 20 yards out to even the score again with 8:17 left in regulation.

Dunston then scored from 45 yards after cutting to his left, back to the middle and then to the near sideline before shedding a pair of tacklers all the way to paydirt.

Mt. Carmel responded with a Sisson score from the goal line with 3:04 left before Loudermilk provided — what looked to be — the go-ahead score with 15 seconds left after hitting a 24-yard field goal attempt.

On the ensuing kickoff, however, Dunston collected the ball at the Hearts' seven-yard line before taking it all the way down to the Golden Aces' 25 with 4.3 seconds remaining.

The scene was set from there, as Sefton had a chance to send the game into overtime and didn't waste his opportunity, making a 42-yard field goal just as time expired.

"He saved us tonight punting the ball, he saved us tonight kicking," Hefner said. "It's a heck of a weapon to have."

Effingham then won the coin toss and started the overtime period with Gillum finding Lotz for a score to make it 30-24. Sefton's point-after attempt, though, was off the mark, leaving the score the same.

Sisson then found senior running back Asher Kight wide open on the near side of the field to equal the score.

Like Sefton, Loudermilk's point-after attempt also missed, giving the Hearts another chance.

Sisson then gave the Golden Aces the lead after finding Gillihan — who leaped and caught the ball before keeping both feet in-bounds — to make it 36-30 before failing on the two-point conversion.

Needing a touchdown, the Hearts had an opportunity, but Gillum's pass went off the fingertips of Reed on fourth down, leading to Golden Aces' players storming the field in celebration.

"They did a good job adjusting," Hefner said. "We had a good game plan coming in; they saw what we were in. They made some adjustments, we made some adjustments and went back-and-forth and that's what you saw in the second half."

Sisson said that he had been in one of these types of games before, noting last year's contest against Mt. Vernon, a 34-33 loss.

"We were there last year with Mt. Vernon; we just didn't come out on top. We know we have to be tough and we have to look at the bright side whenever everything goes south," Sisson said. "I'm taking my guys over anyone else."

Effingham returns to Klosterman Field at Washington Savings Bank Stadium in Week 3 for a matchup against Breese (Mater Dei). Mt. Carmel will open Little Illini Conference play against Robinson at home.

Contact EDN Sports Editor Alex Wallner at {span}618-510-9231{/span} or