By Brad Morris
AMANDA — Inconsistent would be the best word to sum up Amanda-Clearcreek on Friday in a 38-18 Mid-State League Buckeye Division win over visiting Circleville.
The Aces showed glimpses where they were sharp on both sides of the football and other instances where they were unable to take advantage of excellent field position or gave up a big play on defense.
“We’re getting great effort from our guys and I couldn’t be happier with that,” Amanda-Clearcreek coach Steve Daulton said. “Our consistency just isn’t there at times, and I think that’s something a lot of football teams are still dealing with going back to getting only one scrimmage and less contact than we normally see.
“If you compare where we are now to where we would be in a normal season, we would have just completed Week 2 of a 10-week regular-season. When I looked out there on the field tonight, I saw some mental mistakes and breakdowns you typically see in a Week 2 game.”
Amanda-Clearcreek quarterback Nate Hunter completed 10 of 20 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 37 yards rushing and another score. Andrew Harber made five receptions for 122 yards and Tim Smith made four grabs for 96 yards and two scores.
The Aces (3-1, 2-1) took advantage of great field position on their opening possession, using four plays to cover 50 yards. Hunter Matheny capped the drive with a 35-yard run he completed by stretching over the goal line. Jonathan Weaver kicked the first of five extra points on the night to give the Aces a 7-0 lead.
Circleville (0-4, 0-3) responded on its next possession, using 10 plays to cover 76 yards.
Facing third-and-18, quarterback Scott Moats used a solid block on the left side to spring himself for a 54-yard run down to the A-C 25.
Moats then kept the drive going by completing a fourth-and-three pass for eight yards to Keith Kelly. Isac Payne capped the drive three plays later on a one-yard plunge to cut the Aces’ lead to 7-6 due to an unsuccessful two-point conversion run.
Later in the first quarter, the Aces snuffed out a fake punt by the Tigers with Quintin Lott making the tackle on a run, giving A-C the ball on the CHS 49.
The Aces wasted no time, using a 45-yard completion from Hunter to Harber to set up a four-yard touchdown run courtesy of Matheny to go ahead 14-6.
Amanda-Clearcreek continued on the offensive midway through the second quarter. Hunter connected with Harber down the seam for a 43-yard gain that four plays later led to a four-yard touchdown toss from Hunter to a wide open Tim Smith in the left corner of the end zone.
The Aces reached Circleville territory three more times in the quarter, turning the ball over on downs on the 35, having Circleville’s Omari Graham intercept a pass on his own 10 and then running out of time to kick a field goal on the CHS 15-yard line.
That frustration carried over into the second half when the Aces marched down to the CHS five, but were stuffed on a fourth-and-two play to turn the ball over on downs.
“We didn’t expect to throw the football as much as we did tonight, but we made some nice plays in the passing game, at times,” Daulton said. “And then there were other times where we ran the wrong route, dropped a pass or overthrew a pass. The route is a mental thing we can work on and the others are timing that we need to get down.
“It was tough when we opened the second half where we had third-and-one and were stuffed twice. We expect to run an off tackle play for a touchdown right there, so that’s something else we need to work on in practice this week.”
An interception by Tayvon Miller gave the Aces good field position again on their own 45 that they were able to convert three plays later on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Hunter to Smith.
The Aces expanded their lead to 35-6 with 20 seconds left in the third when Hunter executed a nice fake and rolled around left side for a 17-yard touchdown run.
Circleville scored twice in the fourth quarter – once against the A-C starting defense – on touchdown runs of 60 yards by Payne and 21 yards courtesy of Moats.
“Our defense did a good job against the run for most of the night, but you have to give Circleville credit on a few of those touchdown runs where they blocked the play well and they have kids who can take it in from there,” Daulton said. “They haven’t had the easiest of seasons, so you have to give their coaching staff and kids credit for coming in here and doing some nice things.”
Weaver added a 27-yard field goal in the final period for the Aces.
The Aces added 150 yards rushing to its 228 yards through the air. Matheny paced them with eight carries for 70 yards and two touchdowns.
Circleville amassed 272 yards out of its double wing offense, averaging 5.5 yards per play. Payne covered 136 yards on 21 carries with a pair of touchdowns and Moats had six totes for 57 yards and a score.
Both teams continue league play next week, as the Aces travel to Hamilton Township (3-1, 3-1) and the Tigers head to Teays Valley (2-2, 2-1). The game is especially critical for the Aces, who could improve their chance to host a first-round home playoff game in a difficult Division V, Region 19 if they can defeat the Rangers.
“This is the stretch run now,” Daulton said. “We have two tough league games ahead of us and then the playoffs get under way.
“We need to enjoy this win tonight, because you want to enjoy everything you can with the type of year we’ve had, but then we have to get back to work and have a good week of practice to clean up some of the things we didn’t execute as well as we wanted to against Circleville.”
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