Luke McGinnis fuels big second half as Circle runs by Independence for best start since 1995

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Circle's Ty Smith (1) goes in for a tackle against Independence on Friday, Oct. 8

Luke McGinnis accounted for 234 yards as the Circle Thunderbirds scored 33 second half points to beat the Independence Bulldogs 40-23 on Friday night. 

The win moves Circle to 4-2 for the first time since 1995. They finished 6-3 that season. 

It wasn't all roses and it appeared the Thunderbirds were in for a real fight as Independence struck first but McGinnis wasted little time driving down the field and finding Josh Garbee in the end zone for the 6-yard touchdown pass.

Independence would take a 16-7 lead into the break behind the passing of Ryan Leiker. He would have two touchdown passes in the first half, an 18-yard and 31-yard scoring strikes. They would tack on a field goal right before the half to take the lead into the break.

Circle decided they were done playing games as they came out, marching down the field and scoring an 28-yard run. He'd add on another 15-yard touchdown run and the T-Birds had re-gained the lead that they would never relinquish. 

McGinnis was exceptional in his command of the offense on Friday night. Knowing Independence was game planning to defend the pass, as Circle came in with the second best passing game in 4A, he ran wild on the Bulldogs in the second half. 101 of his 107 yards rushing came in the second half. Of his eight runs in the second half, McGinnis averaged almost 13 yards a carry as six of the eight carries went for seven or more yards. 

That includes the 40-yard scamper that appeared no Bulldog wanted to touch him. 

He finished 10 of 19 passing for a touchdown and an interception. He had 11 carries for 107 yards and three touchdowns. 

McGinnis didn't do it alone as Dylan Bougher had his way on the ground as well. He finished with 102 yards on 18 carries, a season high for the senior. Canon McCormack punched it into the end zone twice for the T-Birds.

Independence on the other hand rarely moved the ball, especially in the second half. It was either a big play or nothing for the Bulldogs (3-3). Jake Brown intercepted Leiker twice. He was 7 of 16 in the second half for 96 yards, with 61 of that coming on their final drive of the game. 

Circle will now turn their attention back to league play as they will host rival El Dorado (3-3) at Circle High on Friday, Oct. 15 in a very big Week 7 match up. Circle stands 2-1 in league play, while El Dorado is 0-3. Last year, El Dorado beat Circle 43-10 in El Dorado. The previous year, Circle beat the Wildcats 25-12 at Circle High.

Circle 40, Independence 23

Circle;7;0;13;20 — 40

INDY;6;10;0;7 — 23


I - 31-yard TD pass from Ryan Leiker to Hayden Smith (kick fail)

C - 6-yard TD pass from Luke McGinnis to Jacob Garbee (Will Trier kick)

I - 18-yard TD pass from Leiker to Camdon Julian (Davis Merrick kick)

I - 22-yard FG by Merrick

C - 28-yard TD run by McGinnis (Trier kick)

C - 15-yard TD run by McGinnis (pass fail)

C - 6-yard TD run by Canon McCormack (Trier kick)

C - 40-yard TD run by McGinnis (Trier kick)

C - 9-yard TD run by McCormack (kick fail)

I - 10-yard TD pass from Leiker to H. Smith (Merrick kick)


RUSHING: Circle — McGinnis 11-107; Bougher 18-102; McCormack 7-56; #40 2-19; Chadwell 1-6. INDY — Shaffer 7-32; Julian 4-14; Merrick 2-4; Johnson 1-3; C. Smith 3-(-9); Leiker 6-(-14).

PASSING (C-A-I-TD): Circle — McGinnis 10-19-1-1 127. INDY — Leiker 17-29-2-3 269.

RECEIVING: Circle — McCormack 2-39; Messmore 1-28; Smith 2-23; Jeffries 2-17; Garbee 1-6; Brown 1-5. INDY — H. Smith 10-199; Julian 4-30; L. Smith 1-19; Merrick 1-11; Bagley 1-10.

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