MOUNT ZION — Workhorse may be tossed around too casually in football, but it's the best way to describe Effingham tailback Terrence Hill.
The exceptional senior and his big offensive line plowed over Mount Zion's defense with 33 carries for 259 yards and four TDs — all in just three quarters — en route to a 37-19 victory in hostile territory on Friday night.
“He's pretty good,” Effingham coach Brett Hefner said of Hill. “He'll be the first to tell you, those guys up front do a pretty good job. But yeah, he's a special player for us. Fortunately we had enough wiggle room there in the end we didn't need to use him to finish things out. He's pretty good.”
Effingham's offense didn't do anything too fancy and it's no secret around the Apollo Conference.
There was just little the Braves could do against Effingham's size at the line of scrimmage, spearheaded by the likes of Matthew Robinson, Drew Niebrugge and Logan Smith.
“The offensive line just kept hitting the D-line,” Hill said. “Oh my gosh, it was amazing running through the holes. They were huge holes. They did an amazing job.”
The Hearts just kept marching forward and chewed up as much clock as possible in the first half.
Effingham's opening drive consumed 15 plays and more than half of the first quarter, finally ending when QB Landon Wolfe dropped the ball off to Smith for an easy 7-yard TD pass.
The Hearts next drive only took 10 plays, with Hill fighting into the end zone for his first score and a 13-0 advantage early in the second quarter.
Effingham (2-1 overall, 2-0 Apollo) led 20-7 at halftime while Hill had 22 rushes for 125 yards and two TDs.
“After the first quarter, you could definitely tell they were getting tired,” Robinson said. “Like every hit, we drive them to the ground and open up a big hole for Terrence.
“I feel like we ran the ball great. I never felt like the O-line blocked better than what we have, especially against Mount Zion, which is a really good team.”
Mount Zion (2-1, 1-1) hung around with its passing game and the deep threat of wide receiver DJ Johns, who hauled in an electric 65-yard TD pass from QB Noah Ruenger on the first play of the third quarter for a 20-13 deficit.
It didn't derail Hill and Co, though.
Hill immediately responded with another short TD run and saved his best for last. He shook off a tackler and went 53 yards into the end zone to break the game open 34-13 with one minute left in the third quarter against the reigning Apollo champions.
It's a second straight mammoth conference road victory. The Hearts toppled Taylorville 50-37 the previous week.
It all means Effingham is in the driver's seat. The Hearts last won the Apollo in 2014.
“We're going to get the train rolling,” Hill said.
Dial up Johns
Few players can keep up with Mount Zion's Johns.
He nearly had another long TD reception in the second half but dropped it in stride with a couple of defenders around him.
He still finished with four receptions for 107 yards and scored another TD on the ground in the fourth quarter.
“He's talented and we're trying to figure out ways to give him the football,” Mount Zion coach Patrick Etherton said. “We've got a lot of talented kids. Effingham did a great job and their kids are very physical defensively. They played a heck of football game and I wish them the best of luck.”
Stubbing their toes
Effingham wasn't totally smooth.
The Hearts committed seven penalties — including two minor infractions on the first drive — and lost a fumble in the third quarter near the red zone.
“We had more experience after facing Taylorville and Breese (Mater Dei). Those are two really tough teams and we came in here and treated Mount Zion like we treat anyone else like they're the best team we're going to face and we just bring it to them.” — Hill