OBETZ — One word is needed to describe the Mid-State League Buckeye Division.
Circleville knocked Hamilton Township into a four-way tie for the league lead Friday, using a late stand to take a 10-7 win on the road.
Despite losing the battle of yards 255-146, Circleville turned to its defense to turn back Hamilton Township.
Kory Hartinger led the Tigers (5-2, 3-1) with 13 tackles, Drew Clanin had two tackles for loss and Drew McGlone had a sack and tackle for loss.
“We had a team effort but we didn’t play very well,” Clanin said. “To be able to walk out of here with a win is amazing and the sign of a good football team.”
Circleville, Hamilton Township, Canal Winchester and Teays Valley are all tied atop the league. The Rangers, under the direction of first-year head coach and former Columbus DeSales boss Bob Jacoby, have been one of two amazing stories in the league this season.
Canal Winchester and Hamilton Township combined for just three wins last season.
The Indians, led by former Massillon Jackson head coach Phil Mauro, have posted a 6-1 record so far, while the Rangers stand at 5-2 following the loss to Circleville. The loss brings a challenge for the Rangers, according to Jacoby.
“I hope we understand what is in front of us,” Jacoby said. “We still have our destiny in front of us if we can keep winning the next three weeks.
“We’ll have to regroup and have to learn to overcome adversity.”
Down 7-3 in the fourth quarter, the visiting Tigers amassed an eight-play drive that stretched 72 yards.
Hartinger hit Clanin on a 17-yard pass to convert a 3rd-and-5 and later connected with McGlone on a 28-yard screen down to the HT four.
“We knew we were going to bust a big play sometime,” McGlone said. “I was wide open and I credit the offensive line for good pass protection.”
Cody Griffin finished the drive on the next play, with a four-yard run up the gut to put the Tigers ahead 10-7 with 4:44 remaining.
Circleville forced Hamilton Township to turn the ball over on downs in its next possession, but a CHS fumble handed the ball back to the Rangers.
Hamilton Township drove inside the Circleville 30, but the Tigers’ defense stiffened and forced the Rangers to try a field goal with 27.4 seconds left.
“That was amazing,” Clanin said of the HT possession. “We were looking for every trick play in the book because we knew they’re a trick play team. We came out with enthusiasm and held them on the drive.”
The field goal attempt by David Crumley from 39 yards out turned out to be a fake but the Tigers got a hand on the pitch and brought the play to a halt.
“We didn’t execute it,” Jacoby said. “Give Circleville credit. We played our game and they still won. They’re a good football team.”
“We didn’t think they could try it that far and we were covering the outside,” CHS head coach Keith Downing said. “We thought we had it covered pretty good.”
Circleville had several opportunities to take a sizeable lead in the first half due to poor Hamilton Township punting. The Tigers started one possession on the 50, another on the Hamilton 42 and also had the ball on its own 41.
Kort Wolfe cashed in one of the chances on a 39-yard field goal in the first quarter, putting CHS up 3-0.
“We played good defense because we needed it,” Jacoby said. “Our special teams were horrible and that’s what got us in the end.”
Hamilton Township grabbed the lead before halftime on a 66-yard screen pass from Dorian Curry to Donovan Rains. Rains broke three CHS tackles to reach pay dirt, putting the Rangers ahead 7-3.
Hartinger completed 9-of-15 passes for 106 yards. McGlone had three catches for 64 yards. Griffin led the Circleville running game with 15 carries for 37 yards and a score.
Andy White added an interception on defense.
Curry was a threat both ways for the Rangers. The HT quarterback had 22 carries for 85 yards and completed 4-of-6 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. Rains had three grabs for 88 yards and a score.
Both schools hit the road next week. Circleville travels to Teays Valley (5-2, 3-1), while Hamilton Township makes a trip to Amanda-Clearcreek (3-4, 2-2).
“We’ve got to get better,” McGlone said. “Teays Valley is a very physical team and we have to step it up.”