FOOTBALL: Bishop McNamara fends off Effingham, advances to 4A semifinal
EFFINGHAM — Bishop McNamara has steamrolled through every team in front of it this season. However, it faced unfamiliar territory early on Saturday when it found itself down 14-0 in the first quarter.
“I actually thought about that at halftime,” Bishop McNamara coach Rich Zinanni said. “Teams have scored on us, but this is the first time we’ve trailed in the first quarter or at halftime all season.”
But in true Irish fashion, they scored 27 unanswered points led by running back Tyshon King and quarterback Tyler Hiller and held off a late comeback attempt to down Effingham 42-35 in a Class 4A quarterfinal.
“We have a lot of good players and there’s a lot of credit to go around on both sides of the ball,” Zinanni said. “Tyshon and Tyler are special players. Some of the runs Tyshon made were big time. He refused to go down and Tyler made some great throws as well.”
Out of sync
Effingham quarterback Landon Wolfe came out firing from the first snap and controlled the entire first half.
First play of the game, he connected with Tristan Duncan on a 40-yard completion before connecting again on a 22-yard touchdown pass just three plays later for a 7-0 lead.
Wolfe had more darts to throw on the next drive and found Nathan Shackelford for a seven-yard score extending the lead to 14-0.
“We underestimated them honestly,” senior lineman T.J. Nehls said. “We’ve been dropping 50 points on everyone and sometimes our heads get full of air. I think we needed that start to happen because it let us know that we are beatable.”
The Irish got on the board with nine seconds left in the first quarter when Hiller found King on a short pass that King turned into a 48-yard touchdown after breaking five tackles and tiptoeing up the right sideline for a 14-6 score that lasted up to halftime.
“That was the worst half of football we’ve played all season,” King said. “But for us to be down only score showed how good we really are yet showed what we needed to improve on.”
Now the fun begins
King gave an impassioned speech in a team huddle just before the second half kickoff.
“It’s either now or never. Next week isn’t guaranteed. Go out, hit them in the mouth and let’s get this win.”
The Irish listened and responded to their leader.
Hiller connected with Payton Gerberding on a 66-yard touchdown on the second play to cut the lead to 14-12.
Following a sack and strip by Caleb Smith and a recovery from Nehls, King found paydirt from six yards out to give the Irish their first lead at 20-14.
“I slowed down to make sure I picked up the ball,” Nehls said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen after that but I had to secure it first. We switched up formations defensively and kept bringing the pressure.”
Next Effingham drive, Wolfe found Dylan Bushur for a first-down completion but the Irish caused another fumble that Ethan Perakis pounced on for the turnover. Hiller connected with Wilson Netheron on a 52-yard touchdown on the next play that pushed the score to 27-14.
“I think every touchdown pass I threw, I ended up on the ground so I never saw the receivers actually catch it,” Hiller said. “But I’m hyped up and sprinting down the field to celebrate and have fun with my guys.”
King scored the final two touchdowns of the night for the Irish while Wolfe threw two more touchdown passes alongside with a rushing touchdown from Logan Brown.
It all came down to a third down with the Irish ahead 42-35, and King put the dagger through the Flaming Hearts with a 20-yard gain for the win.
“The amount of time the offensive line gives us to make plays is God given,” King said. “You can’t ask for a better line. Most times this season we’ve been the smaller team up front, but for them to come out and ball like they do every week is heaven sent.”
The Irish host a Class 4A semifinal and plays the winner between fourth-seeded Rochester and top-seeded Taylorville. Time and date to be announced later.