Circle T-Birds struggle to slow Mulvane's passing game in loss

Lionel Tipton
Special to Butler County Times-Gazette
The Circle Thunderbirds run out onto the field for their season opener on Friday, Sept. 3.

TOWANDA – There’s no doubt that last week’s thrilling victory elevated Circle to some rarified air, but Friday night the Thunderbirds just couldn’t conjure up the same magic. 

Mulvane was able to exploit a weakness in Circle’s pass defense, gaining 315 yards through the air and bringing the T-Birds (2-2) crashing back to Earth with a 28-14 setback at home. 

Coach Logan Clothier said afterward that beating Augusta might have left Circle a bit vulnerable. 

“I think life humbles you, doesn’t it?” Clothier said. “That’s something we talk to our kids about: You can’t be too high or be too low, and just like in life the sun’s coming up tomorrow morning where it’s a new week, and that’s what I love about football. 

“Our motto is ‘Next plays in good times and bad times.’ We really didn’t move on to the next play; we were still dwelling on that victory, and it was fun. (But) we’ve got to regroup and move on to the next game.”  

And that next game will carry its share of importance, as Circle will have its homecoming game next Friday against Winfield. 

The fact that it’s Homecoming should provide its own importance, Clothier said. 

“I think our focus is going to ramp up (for Homecoming),” he said. “I don’t think we were as focused (against Mulvane). I think we were worried about still celebrating that (Augusta) victory than focusing on our preparation and enjoying the process.  

“Sometimes that outcome of that win was so much fun that we forgot how we got to that win – we executed, we were fast, we executed our assignment. And (Friday night), we didn’t execute our assignment, and you can’t do that against a very good Mulvane team.” 

Wildcats senior quarterback Mason Ellis completed 17 of 26 passes, and Mulvane scored three of its four touchdowns on pass plays – including a completion from Ellis to senior Hunter Seier that culminated in a 95-yard scoring play. 

Ellis and Seier also combined for a 25-yard score, and Ellis also found senior Ian Comer for a 23-yard touchdown. 

“We didn’t execute to the best of our ability, but (Seier) and Ellis, those kids are studs,” Clothier said. “We had some mental mistakes where they got behind us and beat us deep.” 

Meanwhile, the deft passing touch that Circle senior Luke McGinnis had against Augusta deserted him against Mulvane (2-2). McGinnis completed 11 of 26 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown, but he also was intercepted four times. 

The first of those came during Circle’s first possession of the game. Mulvane’s Trent Moses picked off McGinnis and returned it to the Circle 29. A facemask penalty moved the ball to the T-Birds 14. Two plays later, Ellis scored from the 1 and a quick 7-0 lead just 2:17 into the game. 

Circle quickly responded, as junior Ty Smith took the ensuing kickoff and returned it about 40 yards to the Mulvane 47. Senior Dylan Bougher rushed for 12 and 4 yards, then sophomore Cannon McCormack gained a yard. After an incompletion, McGinnis found the speedy Smith for a 30-yard touchdown pass, pulling Circle to within 7-6. 

But then things would go quite dry for the Thunderbirds, as Ellis continued to pick apart the defense. He connected with Seier on the 95-yarder early in the second quarter, then struck again with 4:44 left in the half.  

Mulvane was breezing with a 28-6 lead in the third quarter, but Circle refused to give up. Beginning at the 31, the T-Birds drove 69 yards in just six plays, with McGinnis running it in from 3 yards out. A Mulvane penalty moved the ball closer on the point-after try, and McCormack ran it in for two points. But that was as close as Circle would come.  

Though the big plays were nice, Circle just needed more of them, Clothier said. 

“We just didn’t string enough of them together,” he said. “They did a great job on the perimeter, being physical with our wideouts. That’s just something our wideouts are going to work on this week, getting off of the perimeter and being physical on the perimeter.” 

Penalties – the teams combined for 205 yards in infractions – also stunted Circle’s ability to sustain a drive. 

“That just goes into that discipline and doing things the right way,” Clothier said. 

He said the T-Birds just didn’t adjust. 

“It’s like being a hitter in a baseball game,” he said. “If an umpire is calling it this way, you just can’t keep changing the strike zone and saying it’s a ball when he’s calling it a strike. 

“You’ve got to adjust. We can’t blame the umpires or the officials; we’ve got to adjust to them. Make sure we’re doing things the right way.” 

Even though Homecoming games are usually intended to be somewhat easier, Clothier said that’s not the case in AVCTL Division III.  

“There is no ‘cupcake,’” he said. “Our schedule is a gauntlet. Every team in Division III is tough. Every team in our league last week was either 3-0 or 2-1. Our focus and our preparation needs to be getting back to the basics and preparing to beat Winfield.” 

Mulvane 28, Circle 14

Mulvane 7;14;7;0–28 

Circle 6;0;8;0–14 

M – Ellis 1 run (Dieker kick) 

C – Smith 30 pass from McGinnis (kick failed) 

M – Seuer 95 pass from Ellis (Dieker kick) 

M – Comer 23 pass from Ellis (Dieker kick) 

M – Seuer 25 pass from Ellis (Dieker kick) 

C – McGinnis 3 run (McCormack run) 

RUSHING – Mulvane: Ellis 14-45, Myers 13-21, Moses 1-1 Seier 1-(-1). Circle: McCormack 7-40, Bougher 13-37, McGinnis 6-(-14).  

PASSING – Mulvane: Ellis 17-26-2-315. Circle: McGinnis 11-26-4-193. 

RECEIVING – Mulvane: Seier 9-219, Myers 3-45, Comer 4-42, Dieker 1-9. Circle: Smith 4-101, Bougher 1-47, Glaves 2-23, Jeffries 2-17, Hagemann 1-5, Messmore 1-0.