TOWANDA – With both Augusta and Circle entering Friday’s game 0-2, one team was bound to go home happy.
Augusta used senior leadership to pull out a 20-12 road victory over rival Circle, giving the Orioles a much-needed sigh of relief.
Afterward, Orioles coach Jason Filbeck was relieved but admitted it wasn’t a thing of beauty.
"We’re happy, (but) we’re not satisfied by any means," he said. "We’re happy that we got on the right track and got a win.
"We think it was an ugly win, but ugly wins are better than pretty losses."
Workhorse running back Ryan Andrews bulled his way for 82 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns, and senior quarterback Jett Hand used a shovel pass to senior Ely Wilcox for a 15-yard score.
But the game was closer than that.
Augusta piled up 281 yards of total offense, 155 of it on the ground. Circle amassed 263 yards – 202 through the air. Filbeck acknowledged that Andrews is his go-to runner.
"He’s a ‘hoss,’ no doubt," Filbeck said. "I’d be pretty dumb not to give the ball to him. He breaks a lot of tackles.
"And his ball security got better this week, but some of our other guys (who) put the ball on the ground (that’s) not acceptable."
It was the Thunderbirds’ big plays that had Filbeck somewhat disappointed.
"We outplayed them up front, and then we just gave it to them on big plays," Filbeck said. "We made a few big plays on defense, but gave up some big plays.
"We fumbled the ball too much. If we could stop fumbling, we might put up 40 points."
Hand’s passing ability opens up the Orioles’ offense, Filbeck said.
"Jett’s really come in and given us a throwing element," he said. "He made a few plays in the pass game that hurt them. Teams are loading the box on us, for sure."
As exhilarating as it was for Augusta to grab the victory, it was equally frustrating for Circle, which came close for the second time in three games only to be denied.
"I will never question our kids’ effort," coach Logan Clothier said. "They’re a great bunch of kids, they work their tails off, they do everything we ask them to do as coaches. I think we waited too long to flip the switch and to wake up. I think we still were kind of half-asleep, but to see their faces after the game … we’re just going to keep getting better and make sure we’re in the end zone."
Circle had battled back from being two scores down to pull within 20-12 and had driven to what appeared to be another touchdown, but quarterback Luke McGinniss – who passed for 202 yards, 63 on the final drive – was ruled down at the 1-yard line, denying Circle the touchdown.
On the ensuing play, the ball was fumbled, and Augusta’s Thomas Johnson was rumbling toward a touchdown when sophomore Ty Smith pulled him down inside the 10 as time ran out.
"These kids are a resilient bunch, and they work their tails off," Clothier said. "If you saw that last play, that defines our program right there.
"The fact that Ty Smith chased (Johnson) down, that’s the difference in the type of kids, they won’t give up and he caught that guy. He could have let him go and let him run into the end zone, and it could have been a different score on that scoreboard."
Augusta will travel to Rose Hill next week.
"I think it’s going to be a dogfight," Filbeck said. "They’re not going to lay down for us, and we’re certainly not going to lay down for them. I think it will be a tough matchup."
Augusta 20, Circle 12
Augusta 7;7;6;0 – 20
Circle 0;6;0;6 – 12
Aug – Andrews 6 run (Kohls kick)
Aug – Wilcox 15 pass from Hand (Kohls kick)
Cir – Bougher 1 run (kick blocked)
Aug – Andrews 1 run (kick failed)
Cir – McGinnis 1 run (run failed)
RUSHING – Augusta: Andrews 18-82, Anderson 6-18, Hand 8-16, McConathy 1-7, Williams 1-2, Lichlyter 1-1. Circle: Bougher 11-64, McGinnis 15-(-3).
PASSING – Augusta: Hand 9-12-1-155. Circle: McGinnis 16-29-1-202.
RECEIVING – Augusta: Wilcox 3-29, Flower 1-53, Lichlyter 1-30, McConathy 1-29, McDaniel 1-6, Anderson 1-5, Andrews 1-3. Circle: Bougher 4-25, Smith 4-56, Jeffries 1-10, Brown 2-48, Rogers 4-63.