BREAKING AWAY: Temple uses sizzling start, dominant second-half defense to grab 56-27 win at Ellison
Updated: Oct 10
NOWHERE TO GO: Temple junior defensive end Jaylon Jackson pressures and grabs Killeen Ellison senior quarterback Kyler Villalba during the Wildcats' 56-27 victory Thursday night at Leo Buckley Stadium. Jackson and the Temple defense limited the Eagles to six second-half points as defending District 12-6A champion Temple (4-2, 3-0) extended its district winning streak to 11 games and won its 18th straight game at Buckley. (Photo by Matt Corley, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
KILLEEN – Less than a full week after they overcame a 21-0 second-quarter deficit at home to defeat Harker Heights 44-34 in a District 12-6A showdown, the Temple Wildcats were anything but slow starters Thursday night at Leo Buckley Stadium.
Aided by Killeen Ellison turnovers and miscues, Temple came out blazing and scored touchdowns on its first four possessions – Reese Rumfield threw scoring passes to Mikal Harrison-Pilot, KeAndre Smith and Samari Howard – to seize a 29-7 lead only 8 minutes, 14 seconds into the game.
So then, why was Wildcats head coach Scott Stewart so frustrated at halftime? Well, because his team didn’t score again in the remainder of the first half as turnovers and key defensive breakdowns – specifically on Dominick Allison’s touchdown dashes of 75 and 65 yards – allowed the resurgent Eagles to slice Temple’s advantage to 29-21 by the break.
Back in the Wildcats’ locker room at halftime, Stewart’s speech to his squad was, in a word, spirited.
“I’m going to have to paraphrase that, because I don’t think I could say it exactly word for word. But when it’s not good enough, it’s not good enough,” Stewart said afterward. “And it’s not that we were playing bad football; we were just playing inconsistent football. (That’s) not allowed. We’re not going to tolerate it and we’re not going to tolerate being sloppy with the football.
“I challenged them as good as I knew how to challenge them. I didn’t take it out on any equipment or furniture or anything like that, but even our Lord and savior turned over some tables one time – and I’m not comparing myself to that.”
Stewart’s intermission sermon certainly produced the desired effect.
Howard sprinted 64 yards for a touchdown on the second half’s second play as part of his 208-yard rushing outburst, and Temple’s defense then grabbed control of the game as the first-place Wildcats outscored the Eagles 27-6 after halftime and ran away to record a 56-27 victory that extended their winning streak to four games.
“We came out in the second half and gave up six points. If you look at Ellison on the hoof, they look like an SEC team,” Stewart said after defending 12-6A champion Temple improved to 4-2 overall and 3-0 in league play. “Our offensive line did a great job at the end of the third and fourth quarters with those drives and running the football against guys who could eat corn off the top of our heads.
“It’s kind of a funky thing to play Thursday here,” he added. “I’m just glad we came out with a victory. I’ve always told them that, ‘Good football teams don’t feed off the fans; the fans feed off good football teams.’ So whether somebody’s here or nobody’s here, it shouldn’t change the way we play.”
Temple posted its 18th consecutive win at Buckley overall and its 20th straight regular-season victory there. The Wildcats’ last loss at Buckley came in 2007, 34-31 in overtime against eventual Class 5A Division II state runner-up Pflugerville in a bi-district playoff game.
Temple’s starting defensive line of senior tackle Tommy Torres, sophomore nose tackle Ayden Brown, senior end Eric Shorter and junior end Jaylon Jackson plus senior reserve end Dion Saunders created havoc in the second half for the backfield of Ellison (2-4, 1-2).
So, what did Stewart tell Temple’s defense between halves?
“He was just saying, ‘Contain the B gaps, get in the B gaps and stop letting 45 (Allison) run up and down the field.’ Then we came back and they didn’t really score,” Jackson said. “We came out and we saw that they over-setting us a lot, so the coaches were telling me to use my speed to get back there and get as many sacks as I can. Even though I missed a lot, still we were going good and we came out hard (in the second half). Then we started slowing down a little bit, but we picked it up toward the end and started doing a lot better.”
HARD TO HANDLE: Temple senior running back Samari Howard tries to break free from a Killeen Ellison defender as Wildcats offensive linemen Colby Rice (53) and Endrei Sauls (71) look on during Temple's 56-27 victory over the Eagles on Thursday night at Leo Buckley Stadium. The Air Force-committed Howard rushed 28 times for 208 yards with touchdowns of 3 and 64 yards, caught a 29-yard TD pass from sophomore quarterback Reese Rumfield and threw a 2-point pass to senior Tommy Torres to help the Wildcats earn their fourth straight win following an 0-2 start. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Senior running back Howard, the reigning 12-6A co-MVP, rushed 28 times for 208 yards with touchdowns of 3 and 64 yards, caught a 29-yard TD pass from Rumfield in the first quarter and added a 2-point pass to Torres that followed Howard’s 3-yard scoring run. The Air Force-committed Howard improved his career scoring total to 280 points, 32 away from tying Lache Seastrunk’s Temple program record of 312 points from 2007-09.
An ineffective start against Harker Heights for sophomore quarterback Rumfield led to his being replaced by junior Harrison-Pilot, who then sparked the Wildcats’ comeback win over the previously unbeaten Knights.
Rumfield responded against Ellison by passing for 201 yards and four touchdowns: 72 yards to Harrison-Pilot, 12 to Smith, 29 to Howard and 17 to Devan Williams midway through the fourth quarter. Rumfield, who also had a four-TD performance in the district-opening 49-7 win at Bryan, completed 11 of 30 attempts and threw two interceptions.
Temple has scored 209 points in last four games after producing a combined 27 points in back-to-back home losses to top-ranked Austin Westlake (5-0) and Magnolia West (6-0) to begin the season.
Coming off of a 28-23, double-overtime win against rival Killeen last Friday, first-year head coach Danny Servance’s Ellison squad had the game’s first possession and used Kyler Villalba’s 35-yard pass to Darius Wilson and 16-yard toss to Dantrell Sterling to advance to Temple’s 11-yard line. However, Shorter then put a hard hit on senior quarterback Villalba and caused a fumble that senior linebacker Faylin Lee recovered at the 16.
From the Wildcats 28, Rumfield connected with a slanting Harrison-Pilot (five catches, 110 yards) across the middle and the elusive junior exploded away from Ellison’s defense down the left side for a 72-yard touchdown reception with 3 minutes gone. The first of six extra points by senior kicker Danis Bajric gave Temple a 7-0 lead.
ROOM TO ROAM: Temple junior wide receiver Mikal Harrison-Pilot turns upfield after catching a first-quarter pass from Reese Rumfield on his way to a 72-yard touchdown during the Wildcats' 56-27 victory over Killeen Ellison on Thursday night at Leo Buckley Stadium in Killeen. It was the fifth touchdown scored by Harrison-Pilot in Temple's three District 12-6A games and the first of Rumfield's four TD passes against the Eagles. Harrison-Pilot made five receptions for 110 yards. (Photo by Matt Corley, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Things then went from bad to worse for Ellison as Bobby Williams fumbled on the ensuing kickoff return and Temple’s Smith recovered the ball on the Eagles’ 12. Smith was rewarded on the next snap as the senior tight end got wide open in the middle of the end zone to catch Rumfield’s touch pass for a touchdown and a 14-0 advantage, giving the Wildcats 14 points in a span of 13 seconds.
Ellison needed to answer and did quickly as Allison, who had rushed only nine times for 55 yards in the first five games, galloped through the middle on the next snap and outran everyone for a 75-yard touchdown – the teams’ third TD in a 26-second span – and a 14-7 game.
On the Wildcats’ next possession Howard bowled over defenders on a 16-yard rush to the Ellison 29, then a pump-fake by Rumfield helped Howard get free along the left side to easily make the 29-yard touchdown catch for a 21-7 lead with 6:44 remaining in the high-scoring opening period.
Temple’s defense shoved Ellison back to its 6 on the next possession, and a pressured, sky-high punt by Carlos DeJesus went for only 6 yards to give the Wildcats prime field position at the Eagles 12.
On third-and-goal from the 3, Howard churned behind the left side of his line before junior guard Agustin Silva grabbed him and pulled him across the goal line for the touchdown. Howard then took the conversion snap, rolled right and threw to the 6-5, 255-pound Torres for 2 points and a 29-7 lead with 3:46 remaining.
Alas, Temple couldn’t maintain its significant momentum. Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards down the right sideline before he was tackled at the 8, and Villalba – filling in for senior starting QB Kason Sims, who scored the winning touchdown against Killeen but didn’t play against Temple – crashed into the end zone on a keeper off right tackle for a 3-yard touchdown and a 29-14 game with 2:44 left in a marathon first quarter that lasted 50 minutes.
A stellar Bajric punt pinned Ellison at its 2 late in the first, but the Eagles moved to their 35 before the 5-9, 180-pound Allison exploded through the middle of the defense and used sharp cuts on the right side to sprint for a 65-yard touchdown, trimming Temple’s lead to 29-21 10:44 before halftime.
“I don’t think (Temple’s defense) played poorly in the first half; I just don’t understand (allowing the two long touchdowns),” Stewart said. “We work certain looks, and Ellison didn’t do anything in the second half that they didn’t do in the first half. We were just being lackadaisical with our focus. We’re inconsistent at times. When we’re good, we’re real good, and when we’re bad, we’re not very good.”
The teams traded turnovers for the remainder of the first half. Ellison recovered a fumble after a Devan Williams catch, but safety Harrison-Pilot grabbed a fumble by running back Kaleb Sims. Eagles linebacker Steve Albert intercepted a Rumfield pass at midfield and returned it to Temple 25, but Wildcats junior safety Naeten Mitchell then easily picked off Villalba’s scrambling pass at the 12.
Starting from its 20 with 2:57 left until halftime, Temple used Howard runs and Harrison-Pilot receptions to quickly drive from its 20 to Ellison’s 27, but Rumfield underthrew a pass that Tyrone Osberry intercepted at the goal line. In the final minute, Temple senior speedster Tr’Darius Taylor returned a punt 45 yards for a would-be touchdown, but a penalty for an illegal block negated the score.
After Temple’s 22-point lead had been cut to eight, the halftime break presented an opportunity for Stewart to give his team some tough love and the sixth-year head coach certainly seized it.
“I love these kids. I love these parents because they’ve taught these young men and they want us to coach them hard,” Stewart said. “They got their butts coached hard at halftime, but I was proud of how they responded to the challenge.”
Temple needed to separate from Ellison and did so immediately in the third quarter. From his 36, Howard blasted through a big gap created by his linemen – senior left tackle Colby Rice, sophomore left guard Endrei Sauls, senior center Jose Faz, junior right guard Silva and junior right tackle Jeremiah Mungia – and outran the final defender for a 64-yard touchdown and a 36-21 Wildcats lead.
The Eagles then sabotaged themselves on special teams. Howard raced in to put pressure on punter Rashawn Pinnick, who made a run for it but was tracked down and tackled by Devan Williams for no gain. Temple moved to the 6 but was stopped before a 23-yard Bajric field goal made it 39-21 3 minutes into the third.
The Wildcats stuffed the Eagles’ next possession before another punting calamity hurt Ellison. From the Eagles 28, the snap sailed over Pinnick’s head and Ellison had to fall on the ball at the 10.
Harrison-Pilot appeared to catch Rumfield’s fade pass near the left sideline of the end zone and secure it on his lower back for a 10-yard touchdown, but the nearest official ruled that he didn’t control the ball. Temple settled for Bajric’s 27-yard field goal and a 42-21 advantage.
Ellison then made plays to keep itself within striking distance. Sterling made a catch and broke a tackle on his way to a 53-yard gain to the 3, then Villalba threw to tight end Breon Williams in the middle of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown. But pressure from junior Zion Moore caused the extra-point kick to miss wide left, keeping the score 42-27 with 4:25 remaining in the third quarter.
Temple’s defense delivered a huge play on Ellison’s next possession. The Eagles reached the Wildcats’ 24 before Villalba lofted a pass for the 6-7 Wilson in the back of the end zone. Temple senior cornerback LeMichael Thompson jumped with the much-taller receiver and appeared to catch the ball before they crashed to the turf while battling for possession.
They rolled over behind the back line and one official initially signaled that Wilson made the catch for a touchdown that could have made it a one-possession game with 15 minutes remaining. However, the officials then conferred and ruled that Thompson did make the interception for a touchback, setting off a hearty celebration on the Wildcats’ sideline.
Temple’s defense in general and particularly its four linemen cranked up the pressure after that, dashing Ellison’s hopes for a comeback.
“It’s real fun. We get happy feet off each other and get to feeling good, then come to the sideline and go back and do it again,” Jackson said about Temple’s defensive play. “I’d say we’ve got to get more pushback on the O-line and not let the QB get more time in the pocket. We’re getting better at that game by game.”
Said Stewart about Temple’s defense: “I was very pleased with how they played in the second half.”
CLOSELY CONTESTED CATCH: Temple senior wide receiver Devan Williams (1) beats the tight defense of Killeen Ellison senior Elijah Armour to make a 17-yard touchdown catch from sophomore Reese Rumfield during the fourth quarter of the Wildcats' 56-27 win over the Eagles on Thursday night at Leo Buckley Stadium in Killeen. Rumfield and Williams have connected for seven touchdowns in Temple's last five games. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Beginning a drive at their 8 late in the third, the Wildcats used a series of physical runs by the durable Howard – including 18- and 11-yard gains – plus a 10-yard rush by senior Tavaris Sullivan to reach the Ellison 17. Devan Williams then beat tight defense in the right corner of the end zone and made a leaping catch of Rumfield’s pass for the touchdown, extending Temple’s lead to 49-27 with 6:32 left. It was the seventh Rumfield-to-Williams TD connection in the last five games.
Sullivan provided the Wildcats’ final touchdown, rumbling for a 38-yard gain before rushing for a 1-yard score with 3 minutes remaining.
“I like the fact that they’re gutsy. I like the fact that they’ll go up against people who are bigger and probably faster than they are and just have that workman’s attitude, that Yeoman attitude,” Stewart said about the Wildcats. “I think those are the plusses. I think we’ve got to really work on our fits and our consistency.
“We had bad eyes a couple times. The last drive Ellison scored on, there were three third-down conversions, and two of them were third-and-long. That’s stuff we’ve got to clean up if we’re going to continue to try to play football against some good teams coming up.”
Temple now will turn its attention toward its rivalry matchup with Belton (3-2, 2-0) at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at Tiger Field. The Wildcats have recorded eight straight victories against the Tigers, including a win by forfeit last year when Belton couldn’t travel to play at Wildcat Stadium because of factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everybody’s excited about it. I’ve never played Belton in my high school years," Jackson said. “Last year we couldn’t play, so everybody’s ready for this game and talking about it.”
DISTRICT 12-6A FOOTBALL
TEMPLE 56, KILLEEN ELLISON 27
Temple 29 0 13 14 – 56
Ellison 14 7 6 0 – 27
Temple – Mikal Harrison-Pilot 72 pass from Reese Rumfield (Danis Bajric kick), 9:00.
Temple – KeAndre Smith 12 pass from Rumfield (Bajric kick), 8:47.
Ellison – Dominick Allison 75 run (Carlos DeJesus kick), 8:34.
Temple – Samari Howard 29 pass from Rumfield (Bajric kick), 6:44.
Temple – Howard 3 run (Tommy Torres pass from Howard), 3:46.
Ellison – Kyler Villalba 3 run (DeJesus kick), 2:44.
Ellison – Allison 65 run (DeJesus kick), 10:44.
Temple – Howard 64 run (Bajric kick), 11:16.
Temple – Bajric 23 field goal, 8:41.
Temple – Bajric 27 field goal, 6:54.
Ellison – Breon Williams 3 pass ftom Villalba (kick failed), 4:25.
Temple – Devan Williams 17 pass from Rumfield (Bajric kick), 6:32.
Temple – Tavaris Sullivan 1 run (Bajric kick), 2:59.
Rushes-yards: Temple 39-236; Ellison 31-154.
Passing yards: Temple 201; Ellison 172.
Completions-attempts-interceptions: Temple 11-30-2; Ellison 15-34-2.
Offensive plays-total yards: Temple 69-437; Ellison 65-326.
Rushing – Temple: Howard 28-208, Sullivan 5-51, Rumfield 1-1, Harrison-Pilot 2-(-1), team 3-(-23); Ellison: Allison 9-151, Kaleb Sims 6-15, Zy’Aire King 2-11, Xavier Cortes 2-4, Kyle Micka 1-0, Rashawn Pinnick 1-0, Villalba 9-(-9), team 1-(-18).
Passing – Temple: Rumfield 11-30-2-201; Ellison: Villalba 12-30-2-173; King 1-1-0-5, Ty Kearse 2-3-0-(-6).
Receiving – Temple: Harrison-Pilot 5-110, Williams 3-47, Howard 2-32, Smith 1-12; Ellison: Sterling 6-119, Darius Wilson 1-35, King 2-9, Sims 1-5, Bobby Williams 2-4, Breon Williams 1-3, Allison 1-(-1), Malachi Robins 1-(-2).
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