TOWANDA – On a frigid night on their home field, the Circle Thunderbird football team hosted Buhler to highlight the school’s homecoming week.
It was tough chore going up against the visiting Buhler Crusaders who feature one of the state’s premier running backs in junior Sam Elliott.
On top of that, the T-Birds were affected by injuries after having to play two games in five days last week. Starting quarterback Luke McGinnis and top running back Dylan Beougher were out and so the T-Birds turned to the backfield of quarterback Cooper Chadwell and tailback Ty Smith.
They along with the rest of the T-Birds competed hard, but ultimately could not keep up with the Crusaders, who rolled to a 42-6 win to finish off the regular season. Elliott led the way, tying a school record with six rushing touchdowns. In fact, it’s the second time this season Elliott has tied that record.
"Our kids did a great job preparing, we just have to be better," Circle head coach Logan Clothier said afterwards. "We had too many guys not taking care of the little things this week and I think that added up on Friday night."
Early on Buhler took advantage of field position to put the T-Birds in a hole. Circle went three and out to start and had to punt against the wind, coming in hard from the north. The Crusaders marched 41 yards and Elliott capped a five-play drive with a 16-yard touchdown run. The PAT banged off the right upright, leaving Buhler with a 6-0 lead with 8:34 to go in the first quarter.
Then, with just under a minute to play in the period, the Crusaders had Circle pinned back inside their own five-yard line. They used a pair of timeouts to save the clock and force the T-Birds to possibly punt against the wind again. It turned out they didn’t need to worry about forcing a punt as Chadwell was tackled in the endzone for a safety, which gave Buhler an 8-0 lead with 27 seconds left in the quarter.
From then on, it was the Sam Elliott Show. The Crusader tailback scored on touchdown runs of two, one, and five yards to cap three second quarter drives and Buhler went into the half with a comfortable 28-0 lead. At the break, the Crusaders had a 193-17 advantage in total offense.
The T-Bird defense forced a punt to start the second half, but once again, the offense was stifled. No matter what Circle tried to do, the Crusaders were ready for it.
"Buhler’s a great team, give them all the credit," Clothier said. "Coach (Steve) Warner does a terrific job there, a lot of talent and they execute very well."
With 5:58 left in the third, Elliott busted loose for his longest run of the night, a 39-yard touchdown to put Buhler up 35-0.
Late in the third, the Crusaders had marched across midfield again, when the T-Birds finally got a big play. Elliott fumbled at the Circle 45, and Jake Shaults returned the ball 41 yards to the Buhler 14.
It was the first time in the game that Circle had possession inside of Buhler territory, and the T-Birds took advantage. Two plays later on the first snap of the fourth quarter, Chadwell found Shaults open at the goal-line for an 18-yard touchdown pass. Although the PAT missed, the T-Birds were on the board, trailing 35-6.
Buhler would answer less than a minute later. Quarterback Bradley Neill hit wideout Brock McCurdy for a 57 yard catch and run to the Circle 1. Elliott took it in on the next play for his sixth touchdown of the game and Buhler led 42-6.
Elliott finished with 214 yards on 37 carries. Most of the night, he had to earn those yards against the T-Bird defense.
"Our defensive coaches did a great job of preparing our defense," Clothier said. "Our kids are flying around, they’re tackling well."
Given the loss of several key players, Clothier was proud of his team’s fight.
"(The) last two years, we would’ve gotten blown out by those guys. (Buhler)’s obviously a great program, but our kids are going to keep getting a little bit better each and every day."
Buhler – 8;20;7;7 – 42
Circle -0;0;0;6 – 6
B – Sam Elliott 16 run (kick failed)
B – Safety (Chadwell tackled in endzone)
B – Elliott 2 run (kick good)
B – Elliott 5 run (kick failed)
B – Elliott 1 run (kick good)
B – Elliott 39 run (kick good)
C – Shaults 18 pass from Chadwell (kick failed)
B – Elliott 1 run (kick good)
BuhlerTeam statsCircle52-259ATT-RUSH26-20128PASSING29287TOTAL YARDS497-10-0COMP-ATT-INT2-15-23-3FUMBLES-LOST2-01-5PENALTIES-YARDS7-508-113RD-ATT1-100-04TH-ATT0-029:43TIME OF POSS.18;17
RUSHING: Buhler – Elliott 37-214-6; Rolland 3-6-0; B. Neill 1-1-0; McCurdy 1-7-0; Atherton 2-7-0; Patton 7-24-0; J. Neill 2-1-0. Circle – Smith 17-15-0; Chadwell 6-2-0; Stovall 3-3-0.
PASSING C-A-TD-I-YD: Buhler: B. Neill – 7-10-0-0-128. Circle: Cooper Chadwell – 2-15-1-2-29.
RECEIVING: Buhler – McCurdy 5-114-0; Rolland 1-7-0; Henderson 1-7-0. Circle – Shaults 1-18-1; Rogers 1-11-0.