Luke McGinnis and Ty Smith team up for wild road win over Augusta Orioles

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Circle's Ty Smith catches the first of his four touchdowns in the 42-35 win over Augusta on Friday, Sept. 17 at Hiller Stadium in Augusta, Kansas.

AUGUSTA, Kansas — Circle's Ty Smith didn't want to forget about last year's game and how close it was. He watched Augusta steal a late win in a classic game against Circle last season in class on Friday before his Thunderbirds took on Augusta.

"I watched last year's game -- that last play --  in class today," Smith said. "It was the fuel I needed."

Smith used that fuel into one of the best receiving performances in school history, pulling down 244 yards and four touchdowns. That's including the game-winning touchdown with 1:40 remaining as Circle stunned seventh-ranked Augusta, 42-35, to improve to 2-1 on the year. 

It was an all around team effort, too. 

After missing an extra point to tie the game at 35-all, the Thunderbirds locked in defensively, forcing the Augusta offense to go three plays-and-out, setting up their game winning drive. 

'We just trusted our assignments," sophomore linebacker Cannon McCormack said. "We did that well in the second half."

Circle's defense locked in, holding the Augusta offense to zero points in the second half after letting Augusta get almost anything they wanted in the first half. The only Augusta score in the second half came on a fumble return. 

"Joe [Zinn] always has our kids prepared and does a great job," Circle head coach Logan Clothier said. "In the second half Coach Zinn made some adjustments and the kids were able to go out and execute them."

Circle (2-1) forced two turnovers in the second half and three fumbles. 

That set the table for Circle to make their comeback. After trailing 35-21 heading into the fourth quarter, senior quarterback Luke McGinnis found sophomore Cole Glaves for the score early in the fourth. 

On the next possession, McGinnis found Smith in the corner of the end zone for the toe-touch touchdown, pulling Circle within 35-34 with 5:11 remaining in the game. 

It was the Circle defense that stepped up time and time again in the second half. They forced Augusta (2-1) once again on a three-and-out, setting up the game-winning drive.

McGinnis led the T-Birds on a 79-yard drive that started out on a third-and-long before McGinnis found Bonner Jeffries on an 18-yard pass play. After finding Smith on a hitch route and running for a first down, it was McGinnis who would find Smith for the winner. 

McGinnis, rolling to his right, send a missile into the end zone and as the ball reach the goal line, it was Smith who turned around, plucking it out of the night sky for the go-ahead score. 

Two plays later, the Circle defense forced their second turnover of the half to seal the game. 

"Those kids do a great job of preparing over the summer and in practice for that situation," Clothier said. "I'm just so very proud of them and this team."

McGinnis was cool, calm and collected as the signal caller all night long. He didn't turn the ball over and made opportunities with his feet. He finished with 43 yards rushing until the kneel downs, including the 10-yard run that set up the game winner. 

"He has great ability to move around the pocket and make plays for us," Smith said.

McGinnis finished with 364 yards passing and five touchdowns with zero turnovers. He finished with 13 yards rushing at the end but those kneel downs preserved Circle's first win over Augusta since 2012. 

Circle had every opportunity to not want to win this game, too. 

They had 100 yards worth of penalties. They turned it over three times. They gave up a fumble return on a backwards pass. They missed an extra point. Despite all of that, they never quit. 

"I never see heads down," Clothier said. "In the past when other teams would score that would be ball game. Not anymore. Now, it's our turn to go score."

Wins like this, in the face of adversity, can be program defining wins. It's where you go from here that either makes it a blip on the radar for some memory in the future at your reunion or is this one of the moments you can look back on and think: "This one of those moments when we let people know about the change in Circle.

In the last two wins, you've seen the progression start. In their win over El Dorado in 2019, the team celebrated as if they won their league title. Last year's solo win over Nickerson was more about the domination of the win than the actual win. This year's celebration seemed more business-like, as that of a team with larger goals.

"It's just the confidence we have in each other and our community has in us," McGinnis said. "Hopefully, this will become the expectation for us."

Circle will look for their first 3-1 start since 2010 as they host Mulvane (1-2) on Friday at Circle High.

"We just have to stay the course," Clothier said. "We can do that and there's no doubt in our minds we can go out and play within the best of our abilities."

Circle 42, Augusta 35

Circle;14;7;0;21;—42

Augusta;7;20;8;0;—35

SCORING

1Q A - 1-yard TD run by Holt Williams (run failed)

1Q C - 1-yard TD run by Cannon McCormack (Will Trier kick)

1Q C - 27-yard TD pass from Luke McGinnis to Ty Smith  (Trier kick)

2Q A - 1-yard TD run by Gavin Kiser (Kiser run)

2Q A - 4-yard TD run by Jacob Barnett (Jeremiah Schaefer kick)

2Q A - 2-yard TD run by Kiser (kick fail)

2Q C - 30-yard TD pass from McGinnis to Smith  (Trier kick)

3Q A - 20-yard fumble return for TD by Peyton Lewis (Sebastian Flower run good)

4Q C - 9-yard TD pass from McGinnis to Cale Glaves (Trier kick)

4A C - 4-yard TD pass from McGinnis to Smith (kick fail)

4A C - 32-yard TD pass from McGinnis to Smith (pass good)

TEAM STATISTICS

CIRCLE        TEAM        AUG

32-114        ATT-RUSH    59-321

364            PASS YDS    8

23-35-0        C-A-I        2-7-1

478            TOTAL YDS    329

5-11            3RD-ATT        1-3

1-3            4TH-ATT        1-1

3-3            FUMB-LOST    3-2

10-100        PEN-YDS    4-40

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Circle: Bougher 12-61; McCormack 5-38; McGinnis 14-13; Smith 1-2. Augusta: Kiser 18-104; Barnett 13-108; Flower 15-70; Williams 9-32; Stillwell 3-9, Team 1-(-2).

PASSING (C-A-I-TD): Circle: McGinnis 23-35-0-5 364. Augusta: Kiser 2-7-1-0 8.

RECEIVING: Circle: Smith 14-144; Jeffries 2-33; Brown 1-33; McCormack 2-31; Glaves 1-9; Ahles 1-9; Messmore 1-5; Bougher 1-0. Augusta: Stilwell 1-14; Flower 1-(-6).

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.