BACK TO BASICS: Temple leaves blowout loss in past, uses balance to bash Bryan 53-19 in 12-6A opener
Updated: Sep 28, 2022
THE NEED FOR SPEED: Temple junior wide receiver Jeremiah Lennon sprints past Bryan senior linebacker Mason Rice on a 76-yard touchdown reception from junior quarterback Reese Rumfield during the first quarter of the Wildcats' 53-19 victory over the Vikings in Friday night's District 12-6A opener at Merrill Green Stadium. Six players scored TDs for Temple (3-2) as the Wildcats rebounded from the previous week's 53-18 home loss to state-ranked Arlington Martin and extended their 12-6A winning streak to 16 games. Lennon totaled 112 yards on five catches for a resurgent Temple offense that passed for 302 yards and rushed for 259. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
BRYAN – Temple head football coach Scott Stewart has very high standards for his players, his coaches, himself and the Wildcats’ proud, storied program.
None of the above parties thought those standards were upheld – not even close – in a stunningly one-sided 53-18 loss to state-ranked Arlington Martin in last Friday’s non-district finale at Wildcat Stadium.
So in response to that subpar performance, defending District 12-6A champion Temple went – in Stewart’s words – back to basics beginning with Monday’s long, grueling, hard-hitting practice in 100-degree temperatures and then maintained a focused, physical approach throughout the week in preparation for Friday night’s league opener at old rival Bryan.
“Well, we went back to basics. I’ve always said, ‘Never let someone beat you twice.’ So if we’d hung our head down and tripped over our bottom lip and all the cliches that come with that, you don’t have a chance to get better,” Stewart said after the game. “We challenged them. We went good-on-good with full pads and beat the crap out of each other all week in practice. We practiced in 101 degrees or whatever it was the last three days and didn’t take it easy.
“When it hits the fan . . . I’m not that smart, so the only thing I know from the people I’ve learned from is you go back to exactly where this game starts, and that’s blocking, tackling, throwing and catching.”
It seems like that painful experience against Martin and the attitude reboot that came out of it was exactly what the Wildcats needed.
Jeremiah Lennon’s 76-yard catch-and-run touchdown from Reese Rumfield got Temple going late in the first quarter, then early in the second period Taurean York’s punishing hit on Bryan quarterback Creed Pierce caused an interception that Julian White grabbed out of midair and returned 6 yards for a TD and a 14-0 lead.
Steve Jackson proceeded to score touchdowns on his first two carries this season, Christian Tutson, Mikal Harrison-Pilot and Deshaun Brundage also produced TDs and Temple’s active defense rebounded by smothering a Bryan offense that played without injured standout QB Malcom Gooden as the Wildcats dominated the Vikings to produce a thorough, runaway 53-19 victory at Merrill Green Stadium.
After leading 21-6 at halftime, Temple scored three touchdowns in a 5-minute span in the third period and seized a 50-13 advantage by quarter’s end. An inconsistent Wildcats offense that came in averaging 297 yards per game exploded for 561 yards against Bryan – 259 rushing and 302 passing.
The Martin game was a wakeup call for the Wildcats, and senior linebacker Jaylon Jackson said they were ready to answer it.
“I can say we practiced harder. There was a lot of people who were doubting on the team. We went against Arlington Martin and yeah, they’re good all right, but you’ve still got to go out there and play your game,” said Jackson, who blocked Bryan’s first-quarter field goal attempt. “The predistrict games, they don’t matter. Now that it’s district, this is the last year for our seniors and every win counts now.
“We’re trying to go to state. We’re playing hard and everything counts. We’re practicing longer, all of that. This shows we’re here to play. We’re here to play Wildcat football now.”
Senior cornerback Steve Jackson said he was extremely motivated for the Bryan game after he allowed two touchdown receptions against Martin, which decimated Temple’s defense for 507 total yards. Against Bryan, the Wildcats largely dictated the action as they allowed 30 passing yards and 260 overall.
“It feels amazing. It’s different compared to last week. I feel like we needed this,” the Troy transfer said. “People were starting to doubt us, but you can never count us out. We’re always going to come back stronger. That’s just how we are.”
Steve Jackson said the Wildcats embraced the hard coaching they received all week, knowing that it was necessary to overcome what occurred against Martin.
“It can be real difficult, but it’s all about how you work that week. This week we practiced way longer. We counted every rep in the weight room,” he said. “It’s all about how you practice, because you practice the way you play. If you don’t practice hard, it’s going to show. If you practice hard, it’s going to show.”
MAKING AN IMPACT: Temple senior linebacker Taurean York puts a hard hit on Bryan senior quarterback Creed Pierce as teammates converge during the Wildcats' 53-19 win in Friday night's District 12-6A opener at Merrill Green Stadium. Temple's defense limited Bryan to six first-half points as the Wildcats won their 11th straight league opener. (Photo by Matt Corley, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Temple (3-2) earned its 16th consecutive district victory dating to 2019, won its league opener for the 11th straight season and avoided its first three-game losing streak since the end of 2018. The Wildcats’ 12-6A home opener is next Friday night at Wildcat Stadium against Pflugerville Weiss (2-3), which lost its district opener 21-14 to Harker Heights (4-1) on Thursday.
Last season Gooden didn’t play in Bryan’s 12-6A opener against Temple because he suffered a season-ending leg injury in the Vikings’ first game, and the Wildcats rolled to a 49-7 road win. The talented dual-threat senior quarterback shined in Bryan’s four non-district games with first-year head coach Ricky Tullos, accounting for 15 total touchdowns, but he didn’t suit up against Temple after suffering a serious injury to his right, throwing thumb during the third quarter of the Vikings' 31-10 win over Richmond Randle last week. Against Temple, Gooden was on the sideline with his hand heavily wrapped.
Jaylon Jackson said Temple's defense knew by Wednesday that Gooden likely would not play. Much like it did a year ago, Bryan tried to concoct a viable quarterback plan that could generate offense without Gooden’s varied skills available. With left-handed senior Pierce and sophomore receiver Terrence Lewis taking turns at QB, the Vikings (3-2) took the opening kickoff and drove from their 28-yard line to Temple’s 22.
However, Wildcats senior linebacker Teryon Williams-Echols popped Pierce for a 7-yard loss on third down before Jaylon Jackson barged up the middle and blocked a 46-yard field goal try by Kelvin Zalaya.
REJECTED: Temple senior Jaylon Jackson (0) penetrates the middle and blocks a 46-yard field goal attempt by Bryan's Kelvin Zalaya (82) as Wildcats senior Steve Jackson (2) pressures off the edge during the first quarter of Temple's 53-19 win over the Vikings in Friday night's District 12-6A opener at Merrill Green Stadium. (Photo by Matt Corley, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Temple put together a good opening drive, using Rumfield’s crisp passing to reach the Bryan 28. But a Vikings defender punched the ball out on Brundage’s rush to the left side and Matthew Cooks recovered the fumble on the 33.
After Temple’s defense forced a punt late in the first quarter, the Wildcats’ offense made its move. From the Temple 24, Rumfield (18-of-27 passing for 302 yards) fired a right-side pass to junior Lennon, who used stellar blocking as he blazed along the Wildcat sideline and jetted past multiple defenders for a 76-yard touchdown. The first of Marcos Garcia’s six extra points gave Temple a 7-0 lead with 1:11 left in the opening period.
Then it was the Temple defense’s turn to shine. On third-and-16 from the Bryan 16 to begin the second quarter, Baylor-committed senior linebacker York pressured a retreating Pierce and put a hard hit on him, forcing a wobbly throw that White plucked out of midair at the 6 before the senior end trotted in for a touchdown and a 14-0 advantage.
Jaylon Jackson said Temple’s Dexter Knox-coordinated defense was hungry to prove itself after struggling against Martin and enduring a tough week of practice under Stewart’s watchful eye.
“Coach Stewart was cutting down on a lot of things in practice. We weren’t playing any music, none of that,” he said. “He was watching the defense all practice, making sure we were doing everything perfect.”
Bryan delivered a response on its ensuing drive, using the hard running of senior Tate Schneringer and speedy freshman Jevalen Wade to move to Temple’s 14 before Wade shot through defenders to score the first of his two touchdowns. A missed extra point left the Wildcats’ lead at 14-6 2 minutes into the second period.
Temple took over at its 34 with 4:45 left until halftime following a three-and-out series by its defense. The Wildcats converted a key third down when Harrison-Pilot (six receptions for 110 yards) caught Rumfield’s pass on the left hash and cut across the middle for a 41-yard gain to the 21.
After Rumfield’s 11-yard pass to Harrison-Pilot moved Temple to the 8, Steve Jackson finally got his first opportunity to carry the ball for the Wildcats after he rushed for 863 yards and 12 touchdowns as a Troy junior last year. He raced off right tackle and scooted inside the pylon for the TD and a 21-6 lead 1:58 before halftime.
ACTION JACKSON: On his first carry this season, Temple senior Steve Jackson (2) moves past Bryan junior linebacker Tate Allen to score an 8-yard touchdown during the second quarter of the Wildcats' district-opening 53-19 win Friday night at Merrill Green Stadium. Jackson, who rushed for 863 yards and 12 TDs for Troy last season, added a 37-yard touchdown on his second carry of the game. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
“I’d say when we get a lot of stops, that helps the offense get going,” Jaylon Jackson said. “Sometimes they can start off slow and if we get a three-and-out multiple times, they can go out there and build off our momentum.”
Whereas Temple never seemed to have any positive momentum against machine-like Martin after failing to recover the Warriors’ onside kick to start the game, the Wildcats prolonged their momentum against Bryan well into the second half.
Sophomore Lezlie Jackson, Steve Jackson's brother, returned the Vikings’ popped-up second-half kickoff to the Bryan 48. Passes to Lennon and Harrison-Pilot moved Temple to the 34, then Tutson cut across from the left side to catch Rumfield’s strike at the 15 before breaking tackles and sprinting in for the big-play sophomore’s sixth touchdown reception and eighth TD overall in the last four games.
Junior starting safety Damarion Willis then rushed ahead for the 2-point conversion from a swinging-gate formation, making it 29-6 a minute into the half.
Stewart said it was important to get more players involved in coordinator Robby Case's offense after only Harrison-Pilot and Tutson caught passes against Martin.
“That was the gameplan. We’ve got to take what people give us. I think we ran maybe four or five plays tonight, and I don’t care if we run one play – we’re going to get good at something. I thought we ran the ball better,” Stewart said. “We worked all week on spreading the ball around. I thought Reese played a great game. The first two series of the second half was as good of football as he’s played, so it’s good to see that.”
The defensive-minded Stewart said he took more of a hands-on approach with Temple’s offense this week.
“It’s not like we started practicing football this week, but I really, really challenged the offensive line and we put a little extra effort in there,” he said after recording win No. 60 in seven years as the Wildcats' head coach. “Everybody hates it when Coach Stewart comes over there and tries to coach the O-line, because I don’t know much about technique and I don’t give a blank about technique. But I want to get in the cage and I want people to hit until somebody quits. So hat’s off to those kids. They took it and nobody was complaining.”
Temple’s defense then kept up the pressure on Bryan’s next possession. Senior safety and New Mexico State commitment Naeten Mitchell intercepted a pass by Lewis at his 44 and returned it to the 20. With Harrison-Pilot playing quarterback on third-and-2 at the 12, the four-star recruit ran off right tackle and broke through a sea of would-be tacklers for a touchdown and a commanding 36-6 lead.
Temple’s defense followed that by not allowing a yard on another three-and-out, setting the stage for another big play. After Rumfield hit Harrison-Pilot for 15 yards to the Bryan 37, Steve Jackson raced off left tackle and flashed impressive speed for his second touchdown and a 43-6 advantage midway through the third.
“I was real excited. I couldn’t wait (to carry the ball). I got two touchdowns on two carries. I feel like I can do it if you need it and I can be that guy,” he said, smiling. “Compared to last week (vs. Martin) . . . I feel like I owed the team. I had some (touchdowns) caught on me. I felt I helped the team tonight. It feels good.”
The fleet-footed Wade then produced one of Bryan’s few highlights, charging toward the right sideline, cutting back all the way across the field and outrunning Temple’s defense for a 75-yard touchdown to make it 43-13.
GOOD TIMES: Temple senior Deshaun Brundage (6) celebrates his 5-yard touchdown run, his first TD as a Wildcat, with offensive linemen Endrei Sails (left) and Armando Gonzales during the third quarter of the Wildcats' 53-19 win at Bryan on Friday night at Merrill Green Stadium. Brundage rushed for 92 yards on 12 carries. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
But the Wildcats got backups such as junior running back Jervonnie Williams and junior receiver Tavion Flowers involved on their long ensuing drive, and senior Brundage – who entered with 296 rushing yards but no touchdowns – barreled in from 5 yards out for his first Temple TD and a 50-13 lead with 2:47 remaining, capping the Wildcats’ 29-point third-quarter blitzkrieg.
That wide margin allowed Temple to play its reserves throughout the fourth, which included Garcia’s 32-yard field goal and a 27-yard touchdown run by Bryan’s Isaiah Nutall.
“Those kids deserve to get to play and I felt it was appropriate to do that. That’s great learning lessons for them. They get to watch themselves, and that’s what team football’s about,” Stewart said. “The 1s ought to handle business so that the reserves can get in there, because they deserve to play, too. I was glad they got in there and we got a chance to get better from that, because we’ve got a lot of stuff to fix. If it’s one injury or one anything, those guys have got to play. I thought they played hard.”
Including Temple’s 44-7 home win over Bryan in 2020 and last year’s 49-7 road victory, the Wildcats have defeated the Vikings by a combined 146-33 score in the last three matchups.
Stewart gained a measure of revenge against his old Sam Houston State teammate Tullos, who was Richmond George Ranch’s head coach in 2015 when the 16-0 Longhorns beat Temple 59-46 in the Class 5A Division I Region III final en route to winning the state championship. That was Stewart’s final game as Temple’s defensive coordinator before he became head coach and guided the 2016 Wildcats to a berth in the 5A D-I state title game.
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