The toughest part of losing essentially every game for the last four years comes at the end of the season.
After winning its first game in the 2012 season, Circle had lost every game since — 36 straight — entering last week’s game against Winfield.
“At the end of the season, you look back at how much work you put in and how hard you worked and you don’t really see a payoff,” Circle senior Dylan Brown said.
For the seniors, Circle’s 28-14 victory over Winfield last Saturday was more than just a victory. It was that payoff they had been waiting four years for.
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“It was the most amazing feeling, honestly,” Circle senior lineman Matthew Antone said. “This senior class, we’ve all gone to school with each other since the sixth grade and grown up playing on Fridays and Saturdays together. We finally proved to people that Circle football isn’t dead. We’re still alive.”
In coach Heath Henderson’s estimation, the losing stemmed from two things: lack of seniors and the difficulty of Circle’s schedule.
In Henderson’s first season, in 2013, there were six seniors on the team. Last season there were four.
Circle has competed in Division III and IV of the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League, which perennially produces some of the top contenders in Class 4A and 3A. Henderson said he went back and look at the 19 previous losses and counted 15 against ranked opponents and two more against playoff teams.
Dating back to their middle school days together, this senior class had won one prior game to last week’s triumph.
“That speaks to their character,” Henderson said. “It would have been easy to quit or walk away, but they stuck around when they weren’t winning and kept working hard. It’s easy to come play on a team when you’re winning. But when you’re playing Andale, Andover Central, Maize South every week, it gets tough to wake up every day and come do it again.”
Brown and Antone said quitting was never an option because of the bond they had formed with not only their teammates, but with their supporters.
“You think it was hard for us to come back out and keep playing, but I’m sure it was even harder for our families and fans to keep watching the same thing happen over and over,” Brown said. “They stuck with us and they knew we were going to be the ones to do it, it was just a matter of when.”
But there was still a stigma surrounding Circle football, even inside the school.
“It’s tough to hear when people talk down about Circle football,” Antone said. “But football is my favorite sport in the world and I would never be ashamed to play for any team if I’m doing what I love.”
Players say the win has already changed the culture and atmosphere around the program. The underclassmen feel like they’re apart of a team that’s growing, while the seniors want to cement their legacy as the class that turned around the program.
Circle (1-1) plays at Augusta (2-0) on Friday.
“We’ve done it once, now we feel like we can keep doing it,” Brown said. “We don’t want this season to be remembered for just one win. We want to keep working hard and prove that we can do it again.”