Circle Thunderbirds score in final seconds to stun Winfield

Emmie Boese
Special to Butler County Times-Gazette
Circle's Ty Smith runs across the goal line in the final minute for the game-winning touchdown against Winfield on Friday, Oct. 1. Circle won over Winfield, 35-31.

TOWANDA — Circle's Luke McGinnis found his favorite target, wide receiver Ty Smith, for a 23-yard touchdown with 30 seconds remaining as Circle battled back from multiple double-digit deficits to stun Winfield, 35-31.

The win improves Circle to 3-2 on the season. It's the first time Circle has been 3-2 or this late over .500 since 2010.  

McGinnis, who's a two-year starter for the T-Birds, threw five touchdown passes against Winfield and had 295 total passing yards on the night. Four of those passes were thrown to Smith who had 167 total receiving yards on nine receptions.

It's the second time this season McGinnis and Smith have connected in the final minutes of a game to snatch a victory away.

McGinnis said he and Smith did not start playing together until high school so the chemistry on the field in this win felt special.

“I mean it’s just the chemistry we’ve built over the past two years,” McGinnis said.”We just have some chemistry and some bond that we both can just read each other's minds out there on the field.”

Smith said when he got the chance to play with McGinnis it was a bond that he had never experienced.

“You know the dogs from his grade and me just hooking up together and all those plays made tonight they were pretty cool but like we’ve done it over and over and over again this summer and this and that together so I mean I expect nothing less from him and he’s great,” Smith said.

However, Smith credited his whole team after a great week of practice before Friday night’s game.

“This week at practice, I didn’t want to say anything before the game tonight but it was probably the best week of practice we all had but I didn’t want to jinx it before the game started, but you know it was really great and I’m just hoping we can take that step and elevate from there,” Smith said.

By the end of the first half, Winfield was up on Circle 17-14. However, Circle began to climb back into the lead late in the third quarter after Winfield had returned the second half kickoff back for a touchdown.

Head Coach Logan Clothier said the seniors on the team were an example on the sidelines and on the field of how to battle it in the second half.

“I think when adversity just kept hitting us we continued to stay the course, continued to stay together and throughout there were so many great things that happened, so many negative things that happened but we continued to you know pick each other up, continue to move forward,” Clothier said.

The final drive almost never happened for Circle as Winfield was driving down the field but a timeout led to a regrouping by the defense and junior Bonner Jeffries came up big. He picked off Winfield's Riley Yingling, giving Circle the momentum they needed for their final possession. 

Circle would use a 7-play drive to march 67 yards, including the 23-yard game-winner to Smith, to stun the Vikings. McGinnis was 4 of 6 on the drive for 68 yards.

After the end of the game huddle, Clothier said his team came to the realization of what it will take to win games each week including their matchup against Independence next week.

“We just gotta continue to stay the course,” Clothier said. “We gotta go work hard and earn every single win and not just let things happen for us. Our preparation is key next week with a great Independence team.”

Circle 35, Winfield 31



C - 24-yard TD pass from Luke McGinnis to Nolan Messmore (Will Trier kick)

W - 19-yard TD pass from Riley Yingling to Kyan Towles (Austin Bryant kick)

C - 24-yard TD pass from McGinnis to Ty Smith (Trier kick)

W - 1-yard TD run by Yingling (Bryant kick)

W - 47-yard FG by Bryant

W - 76-yard kickoff return for TD by Cale Lindenman (Bryant kick)

C - 7-yard TD pass from McGinnis to Smith (kick fail)

W - 30-yard TD run by Ar'mon Acosta (Bryant kick)

C - 24-yard TD pass from McGinnis to Smith (pass good)

C - 23-yard TD pass from McGinnis to Smith (Trier kick)

WINFIELD: Acosta 21-155; Yingling 13-41; Tate 9-24; Austin 1-8; Waggmen 2-8; Smith 1-4; Bryant 1-0. CIRCLE: McGinnis 8-44; Dougher 12-39; McCormack 2-3; Brown 1-3.

PASSING (C-A-I-TD): WINFIELD: Yingling 9-20-2-1 103. CIRCLE: McGinnis 17-35-1-5 295.

RECEIVING- WINFIELD: Towles 5-75; Austin 3-15; Meier 1-13. CIRCLE: Smith 9-167; Jeffries 5-82; Messmore 2-34;Brown 1-12.