Friday night’s El Dorado-Circle showdown in Towanda saw a little bit of everything, including a down-to-the wire finish. In the end, it was the visiting Wildcats who kept their season alive...barely.


 

 


Friday night’s El Dorado-Circle showdown in Towanda saw a little bit of everything, including a down-to-the wire finish. In the end, it was the visiting Wildcats who kept their season alive...barely.

The Wildcats overcame two fourth-quarter turnovers and hung on for a 21-20 win over Circle. El Dorado improved to 3-5 overall and 1-1 in Class 4A-District 11. Circle (2-6) is now also 1-1 in district play.

After a scoreless first quarter, El Dorado got on the board first early in the second. On third-and-goal, quarterback Randy Johnson scrambled for a 10-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Wildcat lead. On their next possession, the ‘Cats put together another drive, and Johnson found Taylor Clites over the middle for a 23-yard touchdown and a 13-0 lead.

Circle’s Jake Walker returned the ensuing kickoff near midfield, and a roughing-the-passer penalty set the T-Birds up at the 20-yard line. Quarterback Eric Shepard found Alex Gardinier, who made a diving catch in the end zone to cut the margin to 13-7 late in the half.

In the third quarter, Circle’s Richard Mould returned an El Dorado punt to the 10-yard line. On fourth-and-goal from the 5, Shepard couldn’t find a receiver, so he took it in himself, stretching the ball over the goal line, and Jordan Phillips’ extra point gave Circle their first lead, 14-13.

El Dorado responded with a 60-yard scoring drive, mostly on the ground, and Josh Scott scored from six yards out early in the fourth quarter to put the Wildcats back in the lead. Johnson found Garrett Bruce for the two-point conversion, putting El Dorado ahead 21-14.

On El Dorado’s next possession, the Circle defense struck back. Gardinier intercepted a Johnson pass and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to a single point. A bad snap on the extra point, however, kept El Dorado in the lead.

With just over three minutes to play, a muffed punt by El Dorado gave Circle the ball back in Wildcat territory. Shepard converted a fourth-down pass to Gardinier down to the 22. Eventually, on fourth down, Phillips attempted a 40-yard field goal with 30 seconds remaining. It had the distance, but it tailed off wide left.

Johnson was 7-for-15 passing for 125 yards. Christian Locke had five catches for 64 yards while Clites had two catches for 61 yards. Johnson also rushed for 46 yards while Scott had 37.

Circle’s Shepard was 6-for-18 for 62 yards, with Gardinier catching two passes for 29 yards. Jake Walker had 28 yards rushing on 13 carries.

“Our defense played hard tonight,” said Wildcat head coach Bruce Graber. “We gave up more big plays than we would’ve liked, and we could’ve put the game away sooner. Penalties and turnovers were a big factor, and we didn’t run the ball as well as we planned. It was a tough game, but we  managed to survive it.”

“It’s a really tough loss to take,” said Circle head coach Lee LaMunyon. “We were right there at the end with a chance to win. We showed a lot of poise tonight. We could’ve shut down after falling behind early in the game, but we didn’t. We put ourselves in a position to win, but it just didn’t happen.”

Both teams will be at home for their regular-season finales Thursday at 7 p.m. El Dorado will host Augusta while Circle hosts Andover.