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  • Greg Wille

AREA HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Preview capsules for tonight's Temple-Killeen Ellison, Academy-Troy games

OFF TO THE RACES: Junior running back Samari Howard (8) and Temple (5-1, 3-0) seek to pull even with Killeen Shoemaker (6-0, 4-0) for the District 12-6A lead when coach Scott Stewart's Wildcats host the Killeen Ellison Eagles (1-5, 0-3) at 7:30 tonight at Wildcat Stadium. Howard has scored a team-high 13 touchdowns for Temple, which defeated Ellison 64-38 last year in Killeen. (File photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to


– DISTRICT 12-6A –


at TEMPLE WILDCATS (5-1, 3-0)

7:30 p.m., Wildcat Stadium

Last week: Killeen 27, Ellison 20; Temple 38, Harker Heights 36

Last year: Temple 64, Ellison 38

Game notes: Temple head coach Scott Stewart admitted that his team was fortunate to escape Killeen's Leo Buckley Stadium last Thursday night with its perfect District 12-6A record still intact. The slow-starting Wildcats trailed 20-0 a minute into the second quarter, then scored 31 of the game's next 34 points and staved off the Knights in the fourth to seal a two-point comeback victory. Temple prevailed despite turning the ball over three times and being outgained 419 yards to 321. . . . After Killeen Shoemaker's 42-30 home win over Bryan on Thursday night, Temple needs to beat Ellison to remain tied with the Grey Wolves for the 12-6A lead at 4-0. Temple and Shoemaker will clash – potentially for the district championship – on Thursday, Nov. 19 at Buckley. . . . Beginning with Ellison, Temple will play three of its final four district games at home. . . . The Wildcats' next win will be the 44th for Stewart (43-15) in five seasons as Temple's head coach, matching the 44 victories that Mike Spradlin (44-17) recorded in five years as Wildcats head coach from 2011-15. Temple went 25-4 from 2014-15 with Stewart serving as Spradlin's defensive coordinator. Each man has guided the Wildcats to eight playoff wins and a Class 5A Division I state championship game. . . . Receiver AJ McDuffy caught three touchdown passes from quarterback Humberto Arizmendi against Heights, giving Temple's senior tandem seven TD connections. That was the third consecutive game in which a Wildcat scored at least three TDs. Junior running back Samari Howard had three TDs in the 12-6A opener at Copperas Cove and four TDs against Bryan two weeks ago. . . . Howard has rushed for 667 yards and 10 TDs and has scored a team-leading 86 points (13 TDs, four 2-point conversions). . . . Sophomore linebacker Taurean York paces Temple with 50 tackles, junior Eric Shorter has 35 stops and senior nose tackle Jayven Taylor has 28. . . . The Wildcats' defense will seek a better performance tonight against Ellison after the Eagles rushed for 366 yards and gained 477 overall in Temple's high-scoring win last October at Buckley. . . . Damashja Harris rushed for 212 yards with a 64-yard touchdown in that game, and this season the hard-charging, 6-foot-1, 198-pound senior leads Ellison with 683 rushing yards and five TDs. . . . After elusive QB Breezion Spiller graduated, senior Faleifa Mauga has taken over and passed for 1,292 yards and 11 touchdowns. His top target is senior Trejon Spiller (33 catches, 677 yards, seven TDs). . . . Junior Devonte Tezino, a 6-5, 242-pound end, spearheads Ellison's defense with 41 tackles. . . . The Eagles, 8-18 under third-year head coach Todd Wright, are winless in district but those three defeats – against Killeen ISD rivals Shoemaker, Heights and Killeen – are by only a combined 12 points.


TROY TROJANS (5-4, 3-2) at


7:30 p.m., John Glover Stadium, Little River-Academy

Last week: Rockdale 46, Troy 38; Academy, idle

Last year: Troy 24, Academy 0

Game notes: Academy and Troy might have hoped to be higher in the District 11-3A Division I standings entering the regular season's final week, but the fact is that each team has the opportunity to clinch a playoff berth with a win tonight. A victory for the Bumblebees of first-year head coach Chris Lancaster would tie the Trojans with a 3-3 league record, and Academy would own the head-to-head tiebreaker for the postseason spot. If Troy prevails, head coach Ronnie Porter's Trojans will share second place with the loser of tonight's Rockdale-Lorena district championship game and likely McGregor (3-2 in district), which finishes tonight at last-place Caldwell. . . . Academy allowed only 25 points total in winning its first four games, but the Bees have alternated losses and wins in their five district games while permitting an average of 37.2 points. . . . After playing nine consecutive weeks, Academy finally got an open date last week. . . . Bees senior Jaylin McWilliams has been one of the area's top all-around players this season. He leads area receivers with 48 catches, 848 yards and 11 touchdowns and has made six interceptions, returning three for TDs. . . . Academy senior quarterback Jerry Cephus has passed for 1,490 yards and 16 TDs despite a leg injury that kept him out of multiple district games. . . . Sophomores Lane Ward (63) and Scout Brazeal (58) lead the Bees in tackles, and junior Darion Franklin has 56 stops to complement his 11 touchdowns. . . . Academy's defense must find a way to contain the production of Troy all-state running back Zach Hrbacek, the explosive senior who's rushed for 2,201 yards (his third straight 2,000-yard season) and 34 touchdowns – by far the best totals among area players – despite sitting out in the Trojans' 21-6 win at Caldwell two weeks ago. The Sam Houston State commitment's 226 points scored this season are 102 more than any other area player, and he enters what could be his final high school game with a staggering four-season total of 7,560 rushing yards. . . . Troy's defense will seek to redeem itself tonight after last week's 46-38 home setback to Rockdale. Juniors Kadin Workman and Brady Bearden pace the Trojans with 73 and 64 tackles, respectively. . . . Lancaster, the Academy head coach, served as Troy's offensive coordinator from 2014-19 and helped last season's Trojans go 12-2, reaching the Class 3A Division I Region III final before a loss to eventual repeat state champion Grandview. Meanwhile, Troy's first-year offensive coordinator is Paul Williams, who was Academy's head coach when the Bees earned their last playoff berth in 2018.

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