Augusta’s football team simply outmatched Circle in every way during Friday night’s contest in Towanda.

The Orioles scored three first-half touchdowns and never looked back as they controlled the game pretty much from start to finish. They added one more touchdown in the second half on way to a 26-0 shutout win despite bringing in some new starters in on defense this week.

“Our kids showed some resolve after a tough game last week,” coach Jason Filbeck said. “We had some kids playing because of injuries who hadn’t played much before. They faced some adversity at times, but never gave up a point….We built some depth for the rest of the year.”

Augusta outgained Circle 282-58 in the first half, and most of Circle’s yardage came on one drive in the second quarter. The T-birds started that drive on their 29. Easton Barrier had a nine-yard carry while Solomon Bowen had a pair of nine-yard catches. The T-birds later reached Augusta’s 26, but they fumbled a snap, got sacked and came up short on fourth down as the drive stalled.

The only real blemish on the night for the Orioles was a few untimely fumbles. Jonny Clausing converted a long third down by catching and running for 20 yards on their opening drive.

“I was ready for it,” Clausing said about the catch. “We’ve been working on it, blocking and receiving.”

But Augusta coughed up the ball on the next play as JD Fox recovered the fumble.

After a quick three-and-out series on Circle’s ensuing possession, the Orioles mounted a big drive. Roman Swartz had 12-yard plays both rushing and receiving on the series. He set up quarterback Chance Whitehead, who made a nice run to the end zone, weaving through a couple defenders along the way for an 18-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

Augusta’s defense forced another three-and-out, but Circle’s punter shanked a kick that had a net of just one yard; the Orioles started their drive in the red zone. Whitehead passed to Colton Barnett on the next play, and he fought through some tacklers for a 12-yard scoring play as he dove across the goal line.

“I turned to catch it, and I saw two people coming. I knew as soon as I caught it, I wasn’t going to let them push me back,” Barnett said. “I had to trudge right through them.”

“That kid hasn’t missed a day of weights, I don’t think, in his life,” Filbeck said. “He might not be huge, but he’s strong enough to finish, and he knew where he was on the field. I gave him such a big high-five after that.”

In the second quarter, Augusta capped a nine-play, 83-yard drive with another touchdown as Owen Wilhite burst up the middle, then bounced outside for a 22-yard touchdown run.

Later in the quarter, Lane Coulter hit Trey Smith on an 11-yard pass to get Circle some good field position at midfield. But after two short runs, Ryan Rogers came up with a big third-down sack for the Orioles to thwart the drive.

Whitehead nearly engineered an impressive drive right before halftime, but a pass sailed on him and right into the arms of Jared Greenwood, who picked it off and returned it 26 yards. But Whitehead completed a 20-yarder to Jake Swink, a 16-yarder to Barnett and a seven-yarder to Swartz before the INT.

Circle had a strong drive to start the second half. Coulter hit Hunter Lies for a nice 21-yard play to get the T-birds deep in Oriole territory. But the drive stalled, and the T-birds’ field goal sailed wide right. The T-birds got a quick three-and-out on Augusta’s next drive, but still couldn’t get any points on their next possession.

Late in the quarter, Whitehead made a beautiful deep strike off play-action to Swink, who ran the rest of the way for a 44-yard touchdown play. The Orioles led 26-0 after the extra point was tipped. Augusta outgained Circle 346-104 through three quarters and rarely wavered in the hostile territory.

“For the most part, we did what we were supposed to do and kept our heads,” Barnett said.

Early in the fourth quarter, Augusta fumbled a punt return, but Circle was unable to capitalize as the defense preserved the shutout.

“I definitely liked the defense shutting them down,” Clausing said. “That was good for us, and our offense was pretty solid all night.”

Other than whether Augusta would preserve the shutout, the only real drama in the fourth quarter occurred off the field as Circle’s student section somehow ended up with an Augusta sign in the stands. It reportedly was stolen after the middle-school game Thursday. Oriole students marched around the track fence to try to retrieve it, but administration stepped in to defuse the moment.

Augusta is 3-0 and faces its toughest opponent yet this season when it hosts McPherson next week.

“We’ve got to have a great week of practice like we did this week, and our kids have to understand that, while it’s a tougher opponent, they’re not unbeatable. We can go beat these guys,” Filbeck said. “But we’ve got to play aggressive without being careless.”