But what was more special was seeing the Tigers defy the critics and return to the Division III state football playoffs for the second straight year.
“It feels good to prove everybody wrong,” Griffin said. “No one said we’d make it and no one believed we could after we lost our big line.
“ … This says a lot about us. I feel we’re more of a team and play more together than last year. We’ve grown so much. These guys are my brothers and I can go to them for
Griffin scored on runs of one, nine and 69 yards as the visiting Tigers defeated Carroll Bloom-Carroll 21-7.
“We played not to lose in the first half, but in the second half we played a little better offensively,” Circleville head coach Keith Downing said.
Circleville (7-3, 5-2) finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Mid-State League Buckeye Division with Teays Valley and Amanda-Clearcreek. The Tigers have made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.
“This is the first time in school history going back-to-back making the playoffs,” Downing said. “At the beginning of the year a lot of people didn’t think we’d be good.
“The line grew up, the skill kids did their job, the scout team did their job and the coaching staff was big. Everything worked together.”
Drew Clanin set the Tigers up to start the second half by returning the opening kickoff to the Bloom-Carroll 45. Circleville amassed a 10-play drive finished by Griffin reaching pay dirt on a one-yard plunge, putting the Tigers ahead 14-0.
Bloom-Carroll (3-7, 2-5) answered back with Ryan Burkhardt finding Doc Kilby open for a 47-yard pass play into CHS territory. Eight plays laster, Ryan Burkhardt hit Jon Meadows on a 16-yard touchdown strike to cut the Circleville lead in half.
Griffin quickly changed momentum for the Tigers, taking a Kory Hartinger handoff and finding a hole for a 69-yard touchdown run on the next possession. The Kort Wolfe extra-point put the Tigers ahead 21-7 with 1:05 remaining in the third quarter.
“That run was due to our line,” Griffin said. “They opened a big hole that I was able to get through.”
“After Cody broke that big run, we knew we were going to be alright,” Hartinger said. “He found a seam and that’s when the offense started to kick.”
Bloom-Carroll tried to answer by driving inside the Circleville 30 in the fourth quarter, but Drew McGlone sacked Ryan Burkhardt on a fourth-and-long to finish off the Bulldogs.
“We couldn’t get a whole lot going offensively, and our defense stepped up and did what we needed to,” Hartinger said.
Griffin finished with 20 carries for 154 yards. He scored the first Circleville touchdown in the first quarter on a nine-yard run. The score was set up by Ray Pennington jarring the ball loose on a punt that Caleb Miller recovered on the Bloom-Carroll nine.
Kory Hartinger completed 9-of-15 passes for 90 yards, leaving him 40 yards behind the single-season school passing record. He also added 11 tackles on defense.
Drew Clanin led CHS wide receivers with three catches for 42 yards and Jeremiah Weekley had a fumble recovery.
Bloom-Carroll quarterback Ryan Burkhardt was 8-for-11 for 90 yards and a score. Pat Cunningham had 13 carries for 57 yards and Kilby caught two passes for 52 yards.
“Circleville is an extremely good football team and I wish them well in the playoffs,” Bloom-Carroll head coach Mike Burkhardt said. “We came out and swung with everything we had.
“ … These kids continued to fight, fight, fight and work hard. Their was no quit in these kids tonight and they put four quarters together. I couldn’t be any more proud.”
Bloom-Carroll's 3-7 record is also a little deceiving. The Bulldogs have been competitive in several games this season, including a 10-0 loss to MSL champion Canal Winchester, a 28-27 loss to Division II Hamilton Township and a narrow 12-9 loss against Liberty Union.
“We knew we were undersized, outmanned at times and we knew when we took the program over we were one-year away,” Burkhardt said. “Our kids did a great job tonight and these kids are the building block of the future. When we have success, we’re going to look back at this group starting it. My sons (Ryan and Josh) are with this group of seniors and it is one of those unreal moments.”