Defying the odds.
It’s something that the senior class of the Circleville football team has become accustomed to. The class won just three games combined from seventh grade through their sophomore season. After going 2-8 last season under first-year coach Steve Evans, the Tigers posted their first non-losing season since 2015 and earned their first playoff appearance since 2013 by going 5-5.
The Tigers entered last week’s game against Liberty Union with just a 10 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Drew Pasteur’s Fantastic 50 website.
Pasteur installed Liberty Union as a 16-point favorite to win the game, but the Tigers rallied from a 12-6 deficit to earn a hard-fought 19-12 win.
The win, combined with Logan defeating Zanesville 39-0 and Columbus Academy edging Whitehall 20-19 in overtime, allowed the Tigers to defy the odds and earn the final playoff spot in Division III, Region 11.
We sat down with seniors Joe Streitenberger and Scott Moats to discuss the season, the win over Liberty Union and what the Tigers will need to do on Friday when they travel to top-seeded Sheridan (9-1).
Question: This is a class that won three total games from seventh through 10th grade. Talk about the steps that you all made last year and then building off of it this season to win five games?
Joe Streitenberger: The amount of work and perseverance it took to build on the program we started last year is a lot. Many of our guys are very hard workers and we learned how to play as a team and learned how to win and become a more successful team. Our coaches haven’t ever stopped believing in us and have always pushed us to be better versions of ourselves.
Scott Moats: Our goal this year was to build a foundation and earn it as our coach likes to say. We knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, but we knew our group was capable of being a really good team.
Question: Circleville was at a tough point after three-straight losses and having the distraction of Pumpkin Show last week going into the Liberty Union game. How did the team pull together and respond to get the 19-12 win over Liberty Union and qualify for the playoffs?
Joe Streitenberger: Pumpkin Show is a very big distraction and last year it took a big hit on us, but this year was different. Our coaches and players came into the week prepared and ready for a win and, despite the cold weather, we worked our tails off and ignored all the outside noise.
Scott Moats: The team really wanted to put numbers up on the banner for reaching the playoffs. Nothing else mattered once the time kickoff came around but that game and being able to do something that the school hasn’t done since 2013. We even said at halftime that no matter what Liberty Union was not going to make the playoffs, but we had a chance to.
Question: What does it mean to make the playoffs and getting to play at least one extra week?
Joe Streitenberger: It means a lot to the upperclassmen because of what we have gone through the past few years. It also means a lot to the community because of the lack of success in the recent years. The juniors and seniors only played eight games in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we are excited to get at least one more and try and prove to ourselves that we can compete at the higher levels of high school football.
Scott Moats: It means a lot to me. I think every team’s goal is to play in the playoffs. A lot of our hard work is paying off and it’s showing. We are all very excited about this opportunity. Our Coach (Jeff) Arndt always says if you’re in it you can win it and that’s what we are going to try to do.
Question: Discuss the chemistry that this senior class has?
Joe Streitenberger: As a senior, even through the highs and lows, seeing the dedication and the passion for the game of football throughout the senior class has pushed each and every one of us to keep fighting and working hard together. Most of us have been playing for multiple years through middle school and high school together and building on our chemistry and friendships through the years has helped us play better and see more success on the field.
Scott Moats: Our senior class has a bond that can’t be broken. You learn a lot through your losses, and we have had our fair share of losses. We have had to play varsity football since we were freshman and we have stuck together through all of that. I couldn’t be any prouder of my group of guys.
Question: What does Circleville need to do on Friday to position itself to have a chance to win in the fourth quarter against Sheridan?
Joe Streitenberger: For us to be successful on Friday, we have to keep our heads and play together as a team. We have to trust our coaches and believe in what they coach us to do. We need to buy in to the program and do our jobs every single play. And you can’t forget about playing our hearts out the entire game, which I think we do every single Friday night.
Scott Moats: It all comes down to who wants to win and who believes they can win. We are the underdogs and there is no other position I’d rather be in. We are a good team we just need to believe in each other and go get it done.
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