TOWANDA — The Winfield High School football team was 8 1/2 minutes from their first AV-CTL D-III victory of the season Friday night at Towanda-Circle.
Then it all fell apart.
Circle quarterback Luke McGinnis completed a 23-yard touchdown pass to Ty Smith with 30 seconds remaining, lifting the host Thunderbirds to a stunning 35-31 victory.
The Vikings took a 31-20 lead on a 30-yard touchdown run by Ar’mon Acosta with 8:28 left in regulation.
The Thunderbirds (3-2, 2-1 AV-CTL D-III) went on a six-play, 65-yard drive capped by a 24-yard TD pass from McGinnis to Smith with 7:06 on the clock, cutting their deficit to three.
Winfield went three-and-out and was forced to punt with 4:33 still showing on the clock.
Acosta and senior Jackson Jellings sacked McGinnis on first down, then he threw incomplete, setting up third-and-12 near midfield. That’s where senior Lance Austin intercepted McGinnis with 3:30 remaining to seemingly seal the victory.
The Vikings (2-3, 0-3) were moving the ball when quarterback Riley Yingling was intercepted by Bonner Jeffries, giving the T-birds one final chance with 1:43 remaining.
McGinnis found Smith on a 14-yard completion on third-and-11, then hit Jeffries for 18 yards to the Winfield 23-yard line. McGinnis then made the go-ahead throw on second down.
The back-and-forth affair included two ties and three lead changes through the first half. McGinnis gave Circle the lead with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Nolan Messmore on the opening possession, but the Vikings stormed back with a clock-eating 20-play drive that included a gutsy 13-yard pass from Yingling to senior Koal Meyer on fourth-and-9 from their own 25. Acosta added a 31-yard run on the drive capped by a 19-yard touchdown strike to senior Kyan Towles on third-and-11.
McGinnis hooked up with Ty Smith on a 24-yard TD pass early in the second quarter, only to see the Vikings take it 63 yards in 10 plays capped by a 1-yard touchdown keeper by Yingling with 5:45 left in the half.
The T-birds went for it on fourth-and-7 on the Winfield 27 rather than attempt a 44-yard field goal, but McGinnis’ pass was broken up by sophomore defensive end Cole Wageman and Circle turned it over on downs. That was cashed in by Bryant’s 47-yard field goal as the half expired put the Vikings ahead 17-14.
Winfield freshman Cale Lindenman took the second-half kickoff 76 yards for a touchdown to make it a two possession game and quickly get the crowd into it.
The Vikings continued their good fortune when Bryant recovered his own onside kick, but Winfield couldn’t capitalize.
McGinnis found Smith again on a 7-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter, but the kick failed, leaving the Vikings ahead 24-20.
Winfield scored again on a 30-yard TD run by Acosta, who finished with 155 yards on 21 carries. The extra point gave the Vikings their biggest lead of the game at 31-20.
McGinnis and Smith hooked up on a 24-yard TD pass with 7:06 remaining that was aided by a 15-yard pass interference penalty on Winfield.
The Vikings then went three-and-out, but got the ball back when Austin intercepted McGinnis near midfield with 3:30 left. Acosta ran three plays before Yingling was caught behind the line of scrimmage on second-and-9. The T-birds called their final time out and Jeffries picked off Yingling’s pass, setting up the go-ahead score.
Yingling finished 9-of-20 passing for 103 yards. McGinnis completed 17 of 35 passes for 295 yards and five TDs.
The Vikings return home this Friday to take on Augusta. The Orioles (3-2, 1-2) lost to Buhler 56-21 on Friday.
Statistics courtesy Matt Shelton.
Towanda-Circle 35, Winfield 31
Winfield 7 10 7 7 — 31
Circle 7 7 6 15 — 35
TC — Nolan Messmore 24 pass from Luke McGinnis (Will Trier kick), 8:30.
W — Kyan Towles 19 pass from Riley Yingling (Austin Bryant kick), 0:54.
TC — Ty Smith 24 pass from McGinnis (Trier kick), 10:34.
W — Yingling 1 run (Bryant kick), 5:45.
W — Bryant FG 47, 0:00.
W — Cale Lindenman 76 kickoff return (Bryant kick), 11:48.
TC — Smith 7 pass from McGinnis (kick failed), 2:08.
W — Ar’mon Acosta 30 run (Bryant kick), 8:28.
TC — Smith 24 pass from McGinnis (Smith pass from McGinnis), 7:06.
TC — Smith 23 pass from McGinnis (Trier kick), 0:30.
First Downs 20 24
by Run 12 4
by Pass 7 17
by Penalty 1 3
3rd Down Conv 7-16 6-10
4th Down Conv 3-4 1-4
Rush Att-Yards 48-240 23-89
Passing Yards 103 295
Pass Comp-Att-Int 9-20-2 17-35-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 1-3 2-7
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 0-0
Kick Ret-Yards 5-113 3-70
Punt Ret-Yards 0 2-36
Punts No-Avg Yards 3-20.0 0
Penalties-Yards 9-75 7-55
Time of Poss 30:38 17:22
RUSHING — Winfield, Ar’mon Acosta 21-155, Riley Yingling 13-41, Justyce Tate 9-24, Lance Austin 1-8, Cole Wageman 2-8, Parker Smith 1-4, Austin Bryant 1-0. Circle, Luke McGinnis 8-44, Dylan Bougher 12-39, Jake Brown 1-3, Cannon McCormack 2-3.
PASSING — Winfield, Riley Yingling 9-20-2 103. Circle, Luke McGinnis 17-35-1 295.
RECEIVING — Winfield, Kyan Towles 5-75, Lance Austin 3-15, Koal Meier 1-13. Circle, Ty Smith 9-167, Bonner Jeffries 5-82, Nolan Messmore 2-34, Jake Brown 1-12.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — None.