by JACOB MEREDITH / sportingpumpkin.com
CIRCLEVILLE — With the Pumpkin Show looming in Roundtown, this matchup between Liberty Union and Circleville started off as a bit of a ride in this October MSL meeting. And when the ride came to a stop, it was the Lions on top with a 21-7 win.
The Tigers fumbled away their opening drive against the Lions but responded when Jacob Johnson intercepted the ball from Lions’ QB Nathan Shook. Johnson had a second interception later in the contest and was pressed into service as the emergency quarterback after Hudson Phalin was knocked out of the game in the second quarter.
“JJ was a warrior for me tonight,” Circleville Coach Steve Evans said.
Penalties were a problem throughout the night for the Tigers, though.
“We really have got to control the controllable,” said Evans “as I believe we were penalized more than we have been all year tonight and we can’t control what the refs do.”
The Lions were the first to make it on the scoreboard when QB Nathan Shook connected with Cooper Meachem to take the Lions score to 7-0 and that was where the score stood at the half.
Coming out of the break, Liberty Union took no time to add points when Landon Picarello returned the Tigers’ kickoff to the Circleville three-yard line, and then LU converted on a Shook touchdown run making the score 14-0.
The Tigers’ ensuing drive featured a big run from Jude Blair — who finished the night with 122 yards on 23 carries— but the drive stalled, and LU got the ball back.
The Lions responded with a short drive ending in a Shook touchdown.
And what everyone on homecoming was waiting for happened as the Tigers put together a nine-play drive with Blair running for a 16-yard blast for the Tigers’ only touchdown.
Finishing off the drive was place kicker/Homecoming Queen Payton Ford converting the PAT making the score 21-7.
“These kids left everything on the field and battled through everything we asked them tonight,” Evans said.
With Phalin out with an injury and backup quarterback Austin Gray away at a baseball showcase, Johnson was pressed into service as quarterback for most of the night.
“I couldn’t ask anything more out of him, no matter what the scoreboard said he came in with limited reps during the week and made reads and passes — he just played lights out for us,” Evans said.
Johnson ran the ball 16 times for 60 yards and was 2-5 passing for 22.
Phalin was 2-5 for 15 passing and ran three times for 25 yards before leaving the game.
Overall, the Tigers were 42-207 on the ground.
The Lions ran the ball 32 times for 142 yards and were 5-8 passing for 68.
Circleville wraps up the season with a trip to Bloom-Carroll next week. The Bulldogs suffered their first MSL loss since 2019 31-28 at Hamilton Township Friday.