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HAPPY HOMECOMING: Temple juniors Mikal Harrison-Pilot (7) and Taurean York celebrate after Harrison-Pilot's 21-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter of the Wildcats' 60-15 victory over Killeen Shoemaker on a homecoming Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. In the first half Harrison-Pilot scored on a 13-yard run and caught a 14-yard TD pass from sophomore quarterback Reese Rumfield. York made a team-best 16 tackles. Coach Scott Stewart's District 12-6A-leading Temple team (6-2, 5-0) extended its winning streak to six games and clinched the Wildcats' ninth consecutive playoff berth. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)




The Temple Wildcats had to dig deep against Killeen Shoemaker in 2019 and 2020, needing vital defensive stands and spirited comebacks to overtake the fast, talented Grey Wolves.

But when Temple and Shoemaker met again Friday night in another important District 12-6A clash, the game was played solely on the terms of the red-hot Wildcats.

Mikal Harrison-Pilot scored three touchdowns, Reese Rumfield threw three touchdown passes and Jaylon Jackson forced a fumble that Faylin Lee recovered for a TD right after halftime as surging Temple celebrated its homecoming by thoroughly outplaying Shoemaker for a 60-15 victory at Wildcat Stadium.

The first-place Wildcats won their sixth consecutive game, extended their 12-6A winning streak to 13 dating to 2019 and clinched their ninth straight playoff appearance. For Temple (6-2, 5-0), the complete performance can be attributed to the focused, make-it-happen attitude it brought in against Shoemaker (3-4, 2-3).

Coming off a 57-56 overtime loss to Harker Heights last week, the Grey Wolves of fifth-year head coach Toby Foreman sabotaged themselves by losing four fumbles against the opportunistic Wildcats.

“We outplayed them and outphysicaled them. They’re a fast team, but you put some hits on them and they’re going to stop and they’re going to fall back. That’s what we did, and we came out with the win,” said junior Harrison-Pilot, the versatile three-year starter who produced touchdown runs of 13 and 21 yards and caught a 14-yard scoring pass from sophomore quarterback Rumfield.

“We just take every game one by one. We want to go 1-0 each week, and we’ve done well. We’re just doing our job each game and practicing every day and working hard to get to this point.”

Seniors Samari Howard, Devan Williams, KeAndre Smith and Jalen Robinson scored one touchdown each and junior linebacker Taurean York made 16 tackles as Temple maintained a one-game lead over second-place Harker Heights (7-1, 4-1), which it rallied from a 21-0 deficit to defeat 44-34 on Oct. 1 at Wildcat Stadium.

With two district games remaining, the Wildcats will clinch at least a share of their third straight 12-6A championship with a win at last-place Killeen next Friday.

NO ESCAPING THE PRESSURE: Temple junior defensive end Jaylon Jackson (27) hits Killeen Shoemaker quarterback Omari Evans from behind on the Grey Wolves' 6-yard line early in the third quarter, causing the Penn State-committed senior to fumble. Senior linebacker Faylin Lee recovered the ball at the goal line for a touchdown as the Wildcats took a 32-7 lead on their way to a 60-15 victory Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. It was one of four fumbles recovered by Temple, which has won its last 13 District 12-6A games dating to 2019. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)

Temple sixth-year head coach Scott Stewart knew coming in that Shoemaker had speed to burn, paced by Penn State commitment Omari Evans at quarterback and Khamari Terrell at receiver and on kick returns. The Wildcats’ plan was to take away what the Grey Wolves do best, and Temple executed it well enough that the game didn’t come down to the wire, unlike the teams’ previous two classic battles.

“When you know who you’re dealing with, you’ve got to practice a certain way. We practiced different angles,” Stewart said. “We run our base schemes, but you’ve got to tweak it based on who you’re playing against, and I thought these kids did a great job of not letting them get out in third and fourth gear.

“I think (Evans) hit it twice tonight, and when he hits it, it’s scary. So my hat’s off to our coaches for a great gameplan and just being able to play with speed and make those angle adjustments and technique adjustments.”

After being limited to a combined 27 points in season-opening home losses to top-ranked Austin Westlake (8-0) and Magnolia West (8-0), Temple has exploded for 319 points – 53.2 per game – while ripping off six straight victories. The Wildcats produced 56, 50 and 60 points in their last three wins against Killeen Ellison, rival Belton and Shoemaker, respectively.

Stewart was adamant during his squad’s struggles early in this season that Temple “was going to blow the top off this thing,” but did he actually expect the Wildcats’ Josh Sadler-coordinated offense to come this far and generate so much scoring?

“Yeah. Yeah. I mean, all these people told us we didn’t know how to coach football anymore the first couple of weeks. So where are they at now?” Stewart said. “I’m so proud of our offensive staff. They try to take advantage of matchups and just the schemes that they do . . . I sit in on those meetings sometimes and they’re very knowledgeable and they do a great job.

“The amazing part is I’ve seen coaches who know all the football in the world, but these guys can teach young people. They can teach kids what they want and what they expect. My hat’s off to this entire coaching staff.”

On an evening when he was crowned homecoming king during Temple’s halftime festivities, senior running back Howard rushed for 121 yards with a 1-yard touchdown on 19 carries as the reigning 12-6A co-MVP reached the 1,000-yard rushing milestone for the second straight season and surpassed 3,300 rushing yards for his career.

Howard entered the night with 298 points in his stellar three-year run, leaving the Air Force commitment 15 points from moving past Lache Seastrunk (312 points from 2007-09) as the all-time leading scorer in Temple program history. Howard followed his touchdown rush early in the second quarter with a 2-point run to reach 306 points, but he didn’t score again. He’ll need seven points against Killeen to break the record next Friday night at Leo Buckley Stadium.

ROOM TO ROAM: Temple senior running back Samari Howard follows junior tackle Jeremiah Mungia (58) and other blockers during the Wildcats' 60-15 victory over Killeen Shoemaker on Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. Howard carried 19 times for 121 yards as he reached the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season. He scored eight points on a touchdown and a 2-point conversion, pushing him to 306 career points. He needs seven more points to overtake Lache Seastrunk (312 points from 2007-09) as Temple's all-time leading scorer. Howard also was crowned homecoming king at halftime. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)

After Temple won the coin toss and deferred its option to the second half, its defense immediately set the tone as Evans bobbled the first snap before the fleet-footed senior QB was swarmed by juniors Jackson and Zion Moore (11 tackles) for a 10-yard loss. Wildcats senior speedster Tr’Darius Taylor then returned the Grey Wolves’ punt for 62 yards along the right side to the 10-yard line 2 minutes into the game.

Temple was unable to cash it in for a touchdown but took a 3-0 lead on senior Danis Bajric’s 23-yard field goal.

Shoemaker drove to the Temple 30 on its ensuing possession, but Evans and running back Jamarius Stewart botched the zone-read handoff and senior end Eric Shorter pounced on the fumble, his latest big defensive play against the Grey Wolves. Shorter played key roles in fourth-down stands as the Wildcats rallied to beat Shoemaker 38-28 in 2019 and 27-24 last year following Harrison-Pilot's go-ahead 8-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes left.

Taylor deftly adjusted to Rumfield’s underthrown deep pass to make a sliding 38-yard reception, then Harrison-Pilot shifted from receiver to quarterback, ran off left tackle and bowled over a defender at the goal line to score a 13-yard touchdown. The first of Bajric’s seven extra points gave Temple a 10-0 lead with 2:46 remaining in the first quarter.

It was a similar look to the previous week, when the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Harrison-Pilot ran over and through a smaller would-be tackler near the goal line for a powerful TD.

“Yeah, I’m getting my old stuff out, like in my middle school days when I used to run on everybody. I’m like, ‘Let me do it again,’” said a smiling Harrison-Pilot, who rushed for 44 yards on six carries. “I feel confident running and now I’m just doing me.”

Evans and Shoemaker marched to Temple’s 34 on their next possession, but on fourth-and-2 multiple Wildcats defenders tackled the tall, fast Terrell – one of the nation’s premier 400-meter runners – for a 1-yard gain and a turnover on downs.

Runs of 22 and 10 yards by Howard, a pass interference penalty on Shoemaker and Rumfield’s 19-yard strike to a slanting Williams moved the Wildcats to the 1 before Howard bounced out to the left side and dashed in for his 48th career touchdown overall, four away from tying Seastrunk’s Temple record of 52 TDs. Howard played QB for the conversion and ran straight ahead for his fourth 2-point play this season, extending the advantage to 18-0 with 9:16 left until halftime.

The Wildcats defense nearly created a touchdown on Shoemaker’s next possession. From the Grey Wolves 28, senior tackle Tommy Torres put heavy pressure on the retreating Evans, causing the QB to lose the ball around the 5 before Jackson picked it up at the 2 and crashed into the end zone. However, the officials ruled that it was a forward pass by Evans and also intentional grounding. Temple still took advantage of the sequence, as Taylor’s weaving punt return set the Wildcats up at Shoemaker’s 25.

BLUE SWARM: Junior safety Naeten Mitchell (4) and two other Temple defenders combine to take down a Killeen Shoemaker receiver during the Wildcats' 60-15 homecoming win Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. One week after the Grey Wolves scored 56 points in an overtime loss to Harker Heights, Temple's defense limited Shoemaker to 244 total yards. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)

After Howard’s 11-yard run, Rumfield fired a pass to the left side for Harrison-Pilot, who made the catch and used a quick spin move to the outside to leave his defender grasping at air as he sprinted in for a 14-yard touchdown and a commanding 25-0 lead 7:15 before halftime.

Shoemaker’s offense finally found its rhythm on its ensuing possession, highlighted by a 22-yard Evans run. The Wolves reached Temple’s 17 before Javante Carson caught Evans’ on-the-move pass for a touchdown and a 25-7 game with 2:18 left in the second period.

The Wildcats got a break 23 seconds before halftime when Bajric’s punt deflected off the heel of an unsuspecting Shoemaker player before Temple pounced on the bouncing ball at the Grey Wolves 14. However, Rumfield was sacked for a 9-yard loss and Bajric’s 40-yard field goal attempt was rejected by the crossbar as time expired, leaving Stewart frustrated heading back to the locker room.

“We kind of were flat going into halftime, and I went in and rattled some cages,” Stewart said. “When (Shoemaker) scored, I saw a different look in our kids’ eyes. One of them came off and said, ‘Oh, that’s that angle.’ And that’s all I can expect of these kids, is to make those on-field adjustments and to see that speed and say, ‘OK, that’s not happening again.’ And obviously that didn’t happen again.”

Less than 2 minutes into the third quarter, it was the defense of coordinator Dexter Knox that got the momentum back on Temple’s side. From the Shoemaker 18, junior end Jackson chased down Evans near the Grey Wolves sideline and caused him to lose the ball at the 6. It bounced backward before senior linebacker Lee grabbed it along the goal line for a highlight-reel touchdown and a 32-7 lead.

“What you saw was (Jackson) get in the backfield and normally we would’ve run right at (the quarterback). I saw different angles tonight, and that’s the only way you can play that Evans kid,” Stewart said. “We’ve got (video of) every game they’ve played this year, and week after week people take bad angles, and you just can’t do that to that guy. So when you execute, good things happen.”

Evans demonstrated his speed and elusiveness on Shoemaker’s next possession. The Wolves drove to Temple’s 25 before Evans darted off left tackle and raced through the defense for a touchdown, and his 2-point pass to Carson made it 32-15 midway through the third.

However, there would be no more big highlights for Shoemaker.

Harrison-Pilot and Howard took turns at quarterback on Temple’s next possession, with Howard’s effective rushing helping the Wildcats reach Shoemaker’s 29 before Rumfield came back in and hit Williams for a 17-yard pass on fourth-and-15. From the 7, Williams jumped high in the right side of the end zone to snare Rumfield’s fade pass for his eighth touchdown reception this season and a 39-15 lead late in the third.

“It’s a lot of things back there. You’ve got to figure out who’s going to get the ball – either me, Samari or Reese. You never know,” Harrison-Pilot said. “It just gives (the defense different) looks, and they don’t know what to do.”

Williams’ 32-yard reception from Rumfield helped move Temple to the Shoemaker 21, and on the second play of the fourth quarter, Harrison-Pilot took a fourth-and-1 handoff from Howard, ran off right tackle and tightroped the sideline to score his third touchdown of the game to make it 46-15.

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME: Temple senior Devan Williams makes a diving recovery early after Killeen Shoemaker's Omari Evans (left) was unable to catch a kickoff cleanly early in the fourth quarter. Senior tight end KeAndre Smith caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Reese Rumfield on the next play, giving the first-place Wildcats two TDs in a 12-second span in a 60-15 victory over the Grey Wolves at Wildcat Stadium. Williams also made a 7-yard scoring reception from Rumfield as part of his four-catch, 75-yard night. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)

The Wildcats then delivered the dagger. Bajric’s high, angled kickoff was dropped by Evans at his 25 and the hard-charging Williams alertly crashed in to recover the fumble at the 14.

“Devan's just being an athlete like me. Shoot, he can do it all. Put him on special teams and he’ll do his job 100 percent. He’s just helping the team as always," Harrison-Pilot said about Williams, who played defensive back for Temple as a sophomore, then spent most of his junior year at Wichita Falls City View before returning to the Wildcats last spring.

Stewart commended the versatile, aggressive play and the ideal work ethic of both Harrison-Pilot and Williams.

“The great thing about those kids is they’re probably some of the most talented kids I’ve ever coached, but they work as hard as anybody I’ve ever coached,” Stewart said. “The way I define culture is when your best athletes – or your top-tier folks in whatever profession it is –are the hardest workers, you can’t help but have good cultures. Those guys lead by example, and I can’t thank them enough for that.”

The Wildcats quickly made the Wolves pay for their mistake on special teams, as Rumfield (9-of-16, 158 yards, three TDs, no interceptions) fired a 14-yard touchdown pass to senior right end Smith along the right hash marks, giving Temple 14 points in a 12-second span for a 53-15 lead with 11 minutes remaining.

Robinson was a special teams hero against Belton as he blocked two punts, one of which was recovered by senior O’Tarian Peoples for a touchdown. Robinson made his mark at running back against Shoemaker, rushing on nine consecutive plays for 65 yards and capping the drive with a 1-yard TD to complete the scoring with 3 minutes remaining.

Temple’s offensive line endured difficulties during its first two games, but the starting crew of senior left tackle Colby Rice, sophomore left guard Endrei Sauls, senior center Jose Faz, junior right guard Agustin Silva and junior right tackle Jeremiah Mungia has improved greatly during the six-game winning streak of the high-scoring Wildcats.

“I love these guys. Everyone thought just because they’re undersized they weren’t going to do good, but look at them. They’re playing good and allowing few or no sacks a game,” Harrison-Pilot said. “They’re still developing and still have things to work on, but they’re great. Those are my guys right there."




Shoemaker 0 7 8 0 – 15

Temple 10 15 14 21 – 60

First quarter

Temple – Danis Bajric 23 field goal, 9:01.

Temple – Mikal Harrison-Pilot 13 run (Bajric kick), 2:46.

Second quarter

Temple – Samari Howard 1 run (Howard run), 9:16.

Temple – Harrison-Pilot 14 pass from Reese Rumfield (Bajric kick), 7:15.

Shoemaker – Javante Carson 17 pass from Omari Evans (Antonio Butler kick), 2:18.

Third quarter

Temple – Faylin Lee fumble recovery in end zone (Bajric kick), 10:02.

Shoemaker – Evans 25 run (Carson pass from Evans), 6:37.

Temple – Devan Williams 7 pass from Rumfield (Bajric kick), 2:37.

Fourth quarter

Temple – Harrison-Pilot 21 run (Bajric kick), 11:13.

Temple – KeAndre Smith 14 pass from Rumfield (Bajric kick), 11:01.

Temple – Jalen Robinson 1 run (Bajric kick), 3:23.


Rushes-yards: Shoemaker 32-118; Temple 37-212.

Passing yards: Shoemaker 126; Temple 158.

Completions-attempts-interceptions: Shoemaker 14-25-0; Temple 9-16-0.

Total plays-offensive yards: Shoemaker 57-244; Temple 53-370.


Rushing – Shoemaker: Jamarius Stewart 13-55, Evans 10-32, Paul Brown 3-16, Kmare’ Balfour 3-15, Khamari Terrell 3-0; Temple: Howard 19-121, Robinson 9-65, Harrison-Pilot 6-44, Tavaris Sullivan 1-(-1), Rumfield 2-(-17).

Passing – Shoemaker: Evans 13-22-0-111, Balfour 1-3-0-15; Temple: Rumfield 9-16-0-158.

Receiving – Shoemaker: Carson 3-43, Joseph McCray 4-24, Terrell 3-21, Brown 1-15, Balfour 1-13, Johnathan Lahmann 1-9, Stewart 1-1; Temple: Williams 4-75, Taylor 2-42, Harrison-Pilot 1-14, Smith 1-14, Howard 1-13.

#Temple #TempleWildcats #TempleFootball #TempleHighSchool #SamariHoward #MikalHarrisonPilot #DevanWilliams #JaylonJackson #FaylinLee #ScottStewart #KilleenShoemaker #OmariEvans #TXHSFB #Football2021 #TempleBeltonSports

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SALADO – The Salado Eagles are the defending champions of District 9-4A Division II and have won eight straight league games dating to 2019.

The China Spring Cougars are undefeated, have outscored opponents 345-73 and are ranked No. 5 in the state in 4A D-II.

Something’s got to give when China Spring (7-0, 2-0) hosts Salado (5-2, 2-0) in a showdown of district co-leaders tonight at 7:30 at Cougar Stadium.

It’s a rematch of the Eagles’ 28-14 home victory over the Cougars a year ago, helping Salado capture the 9-4A-II crown with a 5-0 record.

Coach Alan Haire’s 2020 Salado squad went three rounds deep in the 4A Division II playoffs before a 35-7 loss in the Region III semifinals to top-ranked Carthage, the eventual state champion.

Despite finishing as district runner-up to Salado, coach Brian Bell’s China Spring team actually advanced farther in the playoffs. The Cougars won three postseason games before they lost to perennial power Carthage 52-14 in the Region III final.

Salado has compiled a four-game winning streak since its back-to-back non-district losses to Grandview and Stephenville. The Eagles have allowed only 19 total points and scored 186 while beating Mexia, Taylor and then district opponents Gatesville (42-6) and Waco Connally (28-7).

Senior Aidan Wilson leads Salado’s Slot-T rushing attack with 815 yards and 15 touchdowns, junior Seth Reavis has 525 yards and senior quarterback Hutton Haire has contributed seven touchdown passes and five TD runs.

The Eagles’ defense permits only 227.6 yards per game. Its leaders include Nolan Miller with 61 tackles, Josh Huckabee with 59 stops and Nic Bates with 53.

Senior quarterback and returning starter Major Bowden spearheads China Spring’s offense.

Academy aims for fourth straight

district win in home duel vs. Rockdale

LITTLE RIVER-ACADEMY – The Academy Bumblebees seek to take another step forward finishing in at least second place in District 11-3A Division I when they host the Rockdale Tigers at 7:30 tonight in their home finale at John Glover Stadium.

Since beginning district play with a 34-17 home loss to reigning champion Lorena, Academy (7-1, 3-1) has ripped off three consecutive league victories against McGregor, Cameron Yoe and Caldwell. The Bees of second-year head coach Chris Lancaster enter the game against Rockdale (4-3, 2-1) in a second-place tie with Yoe (3-5, 3-1), half a game ahead of Rockdale. Yoe, which led host Academy by 11 points in the fourth quarter before falling 32-28 two weeks ago, plays tonight at first-place Lorena (5-2, 3-0).

Rockdale had its open date last week and hasn’t played since the Tigers’ 34-30 win two weeks ago over Caldwell, which shares last place with McGregor.

Academy sophomore quarterback Kasey Mraz has passed for 1,744 yards and 19 touchdowns against five interceptions. His top targets are junior Scout Brazeal (41 receptions, 866 yards, nine TDs) and senior Darion Franklin (35, 443, six). Sophomore Zane Clark and junior Brayden Bartlett have scored five touchdowns each while splitting time at running back.

The Bees’ defense dominated Caldwell last week in a 49-0 road victory, even with junior linebacker and leading tackler Lane Ward (71 tackles) sidelined by an injury. Clayton Lawson has 63 tackles, Blake Bundy 59 and Brazeal 53.

Rockdale’s offense is paced by sophomore quarterback Blaydn Barcak, who’s passed for 1,303 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 423 yards and five TDs. His go-to receiver is junior Robert Owens, who’s compiled 632 yards and eight TDs on 29 grabs. Sophomore linebacker Cruz San Migel leads the Tigers’ defense with 92 tackles.

Academy is playing for the ninth straight week and finally will get its open date next week before finishing the regular season Nov. 5 at Troy (1-6, 1-2). Last year the host Bees controlled the Trojans in Week 11 to earn the district’s final playoff berth.

After double-overtime victory at Lexington,

Rogers seeks to extend momentum vs. Riesel

ROGERS – In a pivotal game in the District 13-3A Division II race, the Rogers Eagles grabbed a huge victory on the road last Friday by defeating Lexington 43-41 in double overtime.

With top-ranked Franklin (8-0, 4-0) steamrolling toward the district championship, coach Charlie Roten’s Rogers team (5-3, 3-1) has put itself in a strong position to finish in second place. The Eagles can take another step toward that result in their home finale against Riesel (3-3, 1-2) at 7:30 tonight at Merk Field.

Rogers will get its open date week before it concludes the regular season Nov. 5 at Florence (4-3, 1-2). Riesel is tied for third place with Lexington, Buffalo and Florence at 1-2. The Indians were off last week following consecutive blowout losses to Franklin (75-13) and Lexington (69-24).

Junior Zach Davis played a gigantic role in Rogers’ thrilling win at Lexington. He caught touchdown passes of 39 and 35 yards from senior quarterback Riley Dolgener and had a 24-yard TD run, then rushed for a game-tying 25-yard scoring run in the second OT period before Dolgener’s 2-point run capped the Rogers triumph.

Dolgener powered Rogers’ rushing attack with 128 yards and two TDs on 19 carries, while Davis scored on his only two carries. Senior Jordan Werner paced the Eagles’ defense with 12 tackles and junior Jackson Landeros made an interception.

#Academy #AcademyBumblebees #AcademyFootball #AcademyHighSchool #Rogers #RogersEagles #RogersFootball #RogersHighSchool #Salado #SaladoEagles #SaladoFootball #SaladoHighSchool #CameronYoe #Rockdale #ChinaSpring #TXHSFB #Football2021 #TempleBeltonSports

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NEARING A MAJOR MILESTONE: After rushing for three touchdowns in Temple's 50-15 win at rival Belton last Friday, senior running back Samari Howard needs 15 more points to break Lache Seastrunk's Wildcats career scoring record of 312 points. Howard and District 12-6A leader Temple (5-2, 4-0) play their homecoming game against Killeen Shoemaker (3-3, 2-2) at 7:30 tonight at Wildcat Stadium. Mikal Harrison-Pilot scored a touchdown in the final 2 minutes as the Wildcats overtook the host Grey Wolves 27-24 last year at Leo Buckley Stadium to clinch the outright 12-6A championship. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)




Going into Temple’s homecoming football game against Killeen Shoemaker at 7:30 tonight at Wildcat Stadium, senior running back Samari Howard is 15 points away from becoming the Wildcats’ all-time leading scorer.

And considering how strongly Shoemaker has challenged Temple in the teams’ last two meetings, the Wildcats might need for the Air Force-committed Howard to produce 15 or more points to make sure they get past the speedy Grey Wolves and remain alone at the top of the District 12-6A standings.

After using a dominant all-around performance to beat rival Belton 50-15 last Friday at Tiger Field, Temple (5-2, 4-0) is riding a five-game winning streak – averaging 51.8 points in those victories – and has won its last 12 district games dating to 2019.

But although Shoemaker’s record doesn’t pop off the page at 3-3 overall and 2-2 in 12-6A, the impressive speed of Penn State-committed quarterback Omari Evans and head coach Toby Foreman’s Grey Wolves – who seek to bounce back after a 57-56 overtime loss to Harker Heights – certainly does.

“It’s anybody with a single-digit number. If you wear a single digit at Shoe, you are a dude,” Temple sixth-year head coach Scott Stewart said with a laugh, pointing out that Evans sports the No. 7 jersey.

Two years ago at Wildcat Stadium, Shoemaker used its explosive rushing attack to control most of the game, but the Wildcats' defense came up with a must-have turnover on downs deep in its territory and Temple scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to rally for a hard-earned 38-28 win behind Howard’s four touchdown runs.

Last Nov. 19 at Killeen’s Leo Buckley Stadium, the Grey Wolves took a 24-20 lead into the final minutes, but Temple inserted then-sophomore receiver Mikal Harrison-Pilot at quarterback and he scored the go-ahead 8-yard touchdown run for a 27-24 lead before the Wildcats’ defense delivered a fourth-down stand to secure a dramatic victory, clinching the outright 12-6A championship.

So as Temple strives to seize its ninth consecutive playoff berth with a win tonight, Stewart is fully aware of how dangerous fleet-footed Shoemaker can be based on the Wildcats’ recent battles with the Grey Wolves.

“Speed, speed and more speed. They’re salty and can flat-out play. They’ve got effective schemes and they play sound football,” Stewart said about Shoemaker, which reached the playoffs last season and finished 8-3. “Coach Foreman, I have as much respect for him as I have for anybody. I watched Shoemaker play before he got there (in 2017), and it ain’t even close. He’s done a great job.

“He’s got them thinking the right way as far as the discipline and reacting. It used to be where something bad would happen and they would just implode. And that’s just not the case.”

A win against Shoemaker would move Temple to 5-0 in district, ensuring that only second-place Harker Heights (6-1, 3-1) could potentially overtake the Wildcats for first in the unlikely event that Temple – a 44-34 home winner against Heights on Oct. 1 – loses its final two league games to Killeen and Copperas Cove. Every other 12-6A team already has at least two league losses.

With wins in at least two of their final three games, the Wildcats can clinch at least a share of their third straight 12-6A championship and the district’s No. 1 seed for the Class 6A Division II playoffs.

With 78 points scored this season and 298 in his stellar three-year varsity career, Howard needs 14 more points to tie the Temple career record of 312, set by running back Lache Seastrunk from 2007-09.

With 979 rushing yards this year, Howard is on the verge of his second straight 1,000-yard season and has compiled 3,206 rushing yards. Last year’s 12-6A co-MVP also displayed his versatility by completing a 2-point pass to senior defensive tackle Tommy Torres in consecutive wins over Killeen Ellison and Belton.

Wildcats senior slot receiver and kick returner Tr’Darius Taylor said he’s been impressed by various aspects of Howard’s game, from his attitude to his athleticism.

“It’s how much fun Samari has doing it, and he stays disciplined and humble,” Taylor said. “What I enjoy watching him run the ball a lot is the way he waits patiently on the hole to open up, then he just hits it. The acceleration he hits it with, it’s like, ‘Oh, my God.’ And his leaping ability, I’ve been watching him jump over guys since our freshman year.”

Taylor provided the tone-setting, highlight-reel play in Temple’s ninth straight victory over Belton, catching a 75-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Reese Rumfield (13-of-20 passing, 200 yards, no interceptions) on the game’s first offensive snap as the Wildcats went against a strong wind.

“I think No. 1 was handling the emotional situation, and No. 2 was handling the elements, because that’s the first time (this season) that it’s really, really blown. The wind was blowing all day long, so we made some adjustments in pregame,” Stewart said. “Part of that is we try to be intentional.

"I said, ‘Guys, in pregame we’re literally going to split it in half. We’re going to throw the ball this way, then we’re going to throw the ball the other way. Quarterbacks, you’re going to have to see how it comes out of your hand and see what the wind is doing.’”

Jalen Robinson blocked two punts and fellow senior O’Tarian Peoples easily returned one of them for a short touchdown as the Wildcats raced out to a 28-2 lead with less than 8 minutes gone on their way to a 35-point win.

“It was great. It was a lot of fun. We just came in prepared like it was any other game,” Taylor said. “Like Coach always says, the next week matters, because it’s the next week. So we just came ready.”

Stewart was impressed by the way his team removed emotion as much as possible in a rivalry matchup and focused on executing the gameplan.

“I was pleased just how they handled a potentially rough situation. Show me somebody that’s emotionally at a 10 (for a football game), and then show be somebody that’s at a 10 emotionally that’s productive anywhere else in their life,” Stewart said. “I told them, ‘I’m going to be a lot harder on you in games like that, because I can’t have you emotionally at a 10, or even a 9 or even an 8. I want you at a 10 physically, I want you at a 10 focused, I want you at a 10 spiritually, I want you at a 10 mindset. You can’t do all that and be high on the emotional scale. You need to be at a 5.

“I don’t believe in ‘trap games,’ but potentially there are games where emotionally – especially when you start throwing the word ‘rivalry’ around – you can fall into that trap," he added. "If this game means more to (the opponent) than it does to us, great. I just don’t want a game to mean a lot emotionally to us.”

WHATEVER IT TAKES: Temple's Mikal Harrison-Pilot dives through Killeen Shoemaker defenders for an 8-yard touchdown run with less than 2 minutes remaining, the deciding score in the Wildcats' 27-24 win over the host Grey Wolves last Nov. 19 at Leo Buckley Stadium in Killeen. Then-sophomore Harrison-Pilot also made a 22-yard TD reception for Temple, whose comeback victory clinched the outright District 12-6A championship. (File photo by Matt Corley, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)

As for Shoemaker, the Grey Wolves certainly are trying to rebound from an emotional defeat against Harker Heights a week ago.

In a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair, Shoemaker scored 14 points in the final 71 seconds on a pair of long touchdown passes by Evans to produce a 49-49 deadlock, then used an interception to create an opportunity to kick a 21-yard field goal for the win in the seconds. However, the Knights blocked the kick to force the shootout into overtime.

A 14-yard touchdown run by senior QB Evans, his fourth scoring rush of the night, plus the extra point gave the Grey Wolves a 56-49 lead to begin OT, but Harker Heights answered with a 2-yard TD rush by hulking senior Terrance Carter. The Knights then opted to go for the 2-point conversion and the win, and the 240-pound Carter ran it in on the left side to help Heights prevail in a 57-56 thriller.

Heights junior star running back Re’Shaun Sanford II had a monstrous game against Shoemaker’s defense, breaking his own school record with 368 rushing yards while scoring three touchdowns on 41 carries.

Despite that, Stewart said it’s not a given that Howard can get the 15 points he needs to break Temple’s scoring record.

“Especially against these guys, because statistically they’re the best defense in the district,” Stewart said about Shoemaker, which allows 296.8 yards per game. “It’s their team speed, and they’re big up front. They attack the line of scrimmage.”

Senior defensive back Kobe Burgess lead Shoemaker with 46 tackles, and he and 6-foot-5, 180-pound Khamari Terrell – a high-level 400-meter runner – have two interceptions apiece. Junior lineman Zavian Tibbs (6-3, 265) has seven tackles for loss among his 29 stops.

After playing primarily on defense at cornerback as a junior, Evans moved to quarterback this season and has sparked Shoemaker’s speed-based offense. The three-star recruit has rushed for 740 yards and seven touchdowns and passed for 671 yards and seven TDs.

“The Evans kid who’s going to Penn State, he’s electric. He’s going there as a cornerback, and he’s as good as advertised there, too. He can absolutely roll,” Stewart said. “Getting in his gears is the only chance you’ve got. If he hits third gear, the only thing that’s going to stop him is if we throw a wire across the field and hold it about 4 feet in the air.

“They don’t (throw it) as much, because their identity is they’re going to run the football. He’s not going to college to play quarterback, but he’s better than you want him to be. He is not one-dimensional.”

Senior Jamarius Stewart is another potent threat with 631 yards and four touchdowns on 73 carries. Sophomore Jerrod Hicks has run for 562 yards and eight TDs on only 40 carries, but he missed the Harker Heights game with his arm in a sling and it’s unclear whether he’ll play at Temple. Terrell also is the Grey Wolves’ leading receiver with 14 catches for 228 yards and three TDs and has returned three kicks for scores, and senior Joseph McCray has 169 yards on 13 receptions.

“It’s rinse and repeat,” Stewart said. “They’ve got a really big offensive line. They’re not as tall as some kids we’ve played, but they’re 6-2, 285 and 6-3, 290. They’re not lacking size.”

A decorated track standout himself who knows several of those burners from Shoemaker, Temple’s Taylor said it will be about football – not simply speed – when the Grey Wolves come to Wildcat Stadium.

Said Taylor: “Shoemaker is fast, but we’re playing football, so it’s not a track meet.”

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