EMBRACING CHANGE: Stewart says move-ins such as Williams, Rumfield helping Temple in spring football
Updated: May 27, 2021
GOING DEEP: Temple wide receiver Tr'Darius Taylor catches a 19-yard touchdown pass during the Wildcats' 56-28 loss to Rockwall-Heath in a Class 6A Division II area-round playoff game at Baylor's McLane Stadium in Waco on Dec. 18, 2020. An incoming senior, the speedy Taylor is one of Temple's leading targets as it prepares for the 2021 season. Taylor and coach Scott Stewart's Wildcats play their annual Blue-White spring game at 7 p.m. Thursday at Wildcat Stadium, where Temple will host two-time reigning 6A state champion Austin Westlake on Aug. 27. (File photo by Matt Corley, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
During his two-plus decades as a high school football coach, Scott Stewart has learned to expect the unexpected, to embrace change, to roll with the punches and to make fast adjustments when needed.
On April 27, Temple's sixth-year head coach was discussing the Wildcats' upcoming spring practices when a familiar figure knocked on his office door. It was Devan Williams, who played defensive back for Temple's varsity team as a sophomore in 2019 but then moved with his family to Wichita Falls.
When the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Williams told Stewart that he had moved back and was re-enrolling at Temple, Stewart obviously placed that in the “good news” category.
“Devan's an athlete and we put him where we needed him (in 2019). He came back and said, 'Coach, I really want to be a receiver.' And I was like, 'Well, guess what? We need some,'” Stewart said on Monday as he looked ahead to Temple's annual Blue-White spring game at 7 p.m. Thursday at Bob McQueen Field at Wildcat Stadium. “So he's working at outside receiver right now. He's got great hands, runs great routes and he's developed physically.”
Three days after Williams walked back into Stewart's office in late April, Temple cornerbacks coach Chris VanCleave informed Stewart that he would be leaving after two years with the Wildcats to become Rockdale's cornerbacks coach and head track and field coach.
Therefore, Stewart suddenly had to search for VanCleave's replacement. Stewart found him in the form of someone he'd known for a long time – but not someone he expected to show interest in the job.
That person is Brock Rumfield, a 1994 Belton graduate who played quarterback for the Tigers and as a senior starred for their baseball team that won the Class 4A state championship. Currently a teacher and coach at Midlothian Heritage on the southern edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Rumfield contacted Stewart to express interest in Temple's opening, in part because Rumfield's wife received a job promotion that made relocating to Central Texas appealing for their family.
Another layer of the story is that Rumfield's son, Reese, is finishing his freshman year and is an up-and-coming quarterback who's thought to have the potential to become a standout varsity player.
To hear Stewart tell it, hiring Brock Rumfield to join Temple's staff as a defensive backs coach and an assistant baseball coach is something that quickly fell into place a few weeks ago. The fact that Rumfield's son – who's already enrolled at Temple – could challenge for the Wildcats' starting quarterback position as soon as the 2021 season? Well, that's just an added bonus, even though nothing is guaranteed considering the Wildcats' roster includes several talented QB options, including highly versatile incoming junior Mikal Harrison-Pilot, a first-team all-league receiver for Temple's 10-2 District 12-6A championship squad last season.
“I grew up with Brock and we played Little League baseball together. My dad (Larry) graduated with their dad (Shelby), so I've known the Rumfields forever,” said Stewart, a 1992 Troy graduate. “Brock called me, he came in and we talked about his vision. We felt like it was a good fit. We went through the interview process and felt like he was the best of the group that we interviewed. Yes, it's great that he has a son who's an athlete, but I don't hire kids. I hire coaches.
“Brock wants (Reese) to play and get his shot, but he wants him to earn what he gets. We talked ad nauseam about how we grind and feel like we can outwork people. This is the expectation and this is what we do. To me, this isn't about Reese. It's about Brock.”
Brock Rumfield's older brother is Toby Rumfield, the former Temple head baseball coach and football assistant who now coaches at Denton. Reese Rumfield's cousin TJ Rumfield quarterbacked Temple to a 10-4 record in 2017 and now plays baseball for Virginia Tech.
As the Wildcats prepared to wrap up their four weeks of spring practices, the unforeseen arrivals of Williams, Brock Rumfield and Reese Rumfield led Stewart, also Temple's athletic director, to discuss the need to adjust and adapt in the fast-moving, highly competitive realm of Texas high school football.
“Doing this for 22 years, the only consistent thing is change. We will project, but obviously nothing's in concrete when you're talking about teenagers,” Stewart said. “You're going to end up redoing a bunch of stuff anyway. We have plans and execute the plans until the plans change. I'm not afraid of change.
“I struggle in my personal relationships sometimes because I work in a profession where I have to anticipate anything anything that could happen, and the underlying thought there is something going wrong,” he added. “And 99 percent of it is bad. 'If this happens, what are we going to do? If this happens, what are we going to do?' It's a domino effect. You have to have those plans ready to roll.”
Before Temple's Blue-White spring game begins at 7 on Thursday evening, Wildcat Stadium will host a showcase event – including 7-on-7 action and a lineman challenge – for players from Temple's three middle schools beginning at 5, with many former Wildcats players expected to attend.
“We're trying to get more people in the stands and get them excited,” Stewart said. “We're trying to be more intentional about those kids transitioning to Temple High School.”
Temple's incoming seniors, juniors and sophomores – approximately 100 total players – will be split into Blue and White teams for the scheduled 2-hour spring scrimmage. One squad will have the first-team offense, second-team defense and third-team offense, while the other squad will have the first-team defense, second-team offense and third-team defense.
Stewart said the first-string units will go against each other and that Temple's tentative plan is to play the first two quarters with regular timing and then shift to a running clock for the final two periods.
The Blue-White festivities will happen exactly three months before the Wildcats challenge two-time reigning 6A state champion Austin Westlake – the Division II champ in 2019 and the D-I champ last season – in the highly anticipated season opener Aug. 27 at Wildcat Stadium.
“To me, (the Blue-White scrimmage) is more of an exhibition than it is an evaluation. I can see what I need to see in the (three Thursday) scrimmages we have done. I can see the same thing on Thursday night that I saw last Thursday in our scrimmage,” said Stewart, whose program didn't have spring practice last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is more for the community connection. This community loves its football team.”
Along with Williams looking sharp at outside receiver in his return to Temple, Stewart said incoming senior receiver Nyles Moreland (6-0, 170) has made strong progress during spring workouts after playing for Temple's top junior varsity team last season.
“With the year comes some maturation as far as emotional maturity and obviously physical maturity. Nyles Moreland is doing a great job, so I've been very pleased with him and the work that he's put in,” Stewart said. “He was one of those bubble guys, and he's the personification of playing on JV is better than sitting the bench on varsity. There's no teacher like experience. He's an outside receiver, but with his quickness he can play some in the slot. His speed has really increased.”
Incoming senior slot receiver Tr'Darius Taylor (18 catches, 345 yards, four touchdowns in 2020) has speed to burn, as evidenced by his role as the anchor leg on Temple's 4x100-meter relay team that placed sixth in the 6A state meet earlier this month in Austin. Also on that foursome were incoming senior running back and 12-6A Co-Most Valuable Player Samari Howard, Harrison-Pilot and graduating cornerback Carlton Mack.
“Tr'Darius Taylor has come a long way. He has another gear with what Coach (Justin) Pierce has done with our track program,” said Stewart, who also commended the progress of senior-to-be receiver Michael Heckstall.
With four of Temple's five starting offensive linemen from last season graduating, Stewart conceded that it's been an area of concern. However, four weeks spring practice have shown him that the Wildcats definitely have some emerging prospects up front. The lone returning starter is senior-to-be Colby Rice, a 205-pound tackle who's switching from the right side to the left side.
Incoming senior Jose Faz is working at center, junior-to-be Jeremiah Mungia is at right tackle and incoming junior Augustin Silva is at right guard. The projected starter at left guard is Endrei Sauls, a 6-1, 270-pound incoming sophomore.
“The offensive line has come a long way. They're continuing to get better, which is obviously what you want to see. We're not there yet, but either way you cut it, we're going to have at least four new starters,” Stewart said. “I think Sauls is going to be special. He reminds me a lot of (former Temple three-year starting offensive linemen) Dakari White and Markel Carter. He's got good feet and is a strong kid. It's the same thing with Augustin Silva.”
Stewart found some humor in that he seemingly every year must produce a new starting quarterback – Temple will have a different starting QB for the sixth consecutive season – and a mostly new offensive line.
“If I could find a multi-year quarterback starter and multi-year offensive line starters, I wouldn't know how to act,” he said with a laugh.
A PLAYMAKER AT ANY POSITION: Temple's Mikal Harrison-Pilot started all 11 games at free safety as a varsity freshman in 2019, then moved to inside receiver in 2020 and made 38 receptions for 502 yards and seven touchdowns to earn first-team All-District 12-6A honors. Highly recruited as a receiver, a safety and an "athlete," Harrison-Pilot is in contention to become the Wildcats' starting quarterback in 2021 but might remain at receiver if another QB – the candidates include Kaleb Hill, Luke Law, Reese Rumfield and Damarion Willis – does enough to earn the starting job. Law and Rumfield are incoming sophomores who joined the Temple program this spring. (File photo by Matt Corley, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Stewart, offensive coordinator Josh Sadler and Temple at least have the opportunity to develop a multiple-season starter at quarterback.
The elusive, strong-armed Harrison-Pilot was considered the top contender entering last summer, but unheralded then-senior Humberto Arizmendi (Iowa Wesleyan) edged him in a tight preseason competition and then validated the coaches' decision by passing for 2,102 yards and 28 touchdowns while starting every game and earning first-team all-district recognition.
Of course, Harrison-Pilot – who started all 11 games at free safety as a varsity freshman in 2019 – played a vital role in Arizmendi's success, moving to inside receiver and making 38 receptions for 502 yards and seven TDs. Harrison-Pilot also played QB in specialty situations and rushed for the go-ahead touchdown late in Temple's 27-24 win at Killeen Shoemaker that secured the 12-6A championship.
At last count, the 6-foot, 185-pound Harrison-Pilot had received 23 official scholarship offers from NCAA FBS programs, including Baylor, Texas Christian, Houston, Notre Dame, Southern California, Miami (Fla.), Arkansas, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Michigan State, Stanford and Oregon State. Stewart said he's being recruited as everything from a receiver to a safety to an “athlete.”
White Stewart and Sadler know that Harrison-Pilot possesses all the tools to be a top-flight dual-threat quarterback during his final two seasons with Temple, they also understand that Harrison-Pilot – son of Wildcats co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Chris Pilot – might be at his most dangerous as an explosive player who can catch the ball and do plenty more with it after the grab.
“Mikal played slot last year, and now it's about, 'What's the most advantageous thing for the Wildcats?' I just know that the top-end speed and ball skills are five-star on that kid,” Stewart said of Harrison-Pilot, who's been dealing with a stress fracture in his foot for more than a month and likely won't play in the Blue-White game. “I think he's a kid who is going to do whatever it takes to help the Wildcats. He's going to trust (the coaching staff).”
Temple's quarterback derby includes not only Harrison-Pilot and Reese Rumfield but also incoming senior Kaleb Hill, gifted sophomore-to-be Damarion Willis (brother of former Wildcats QB standout Vance Willis) and incoming sophomore Luke Law (6-5, 200), who played varsity basketball for Salado before moving to Temple this spring to join the International Baccalaureate program.
“It's going to depend on Reese, Luke, Kaleb and Damarion. If we can build some depth . . . Mikal's going to practice at quarterback until something else happens,” Stewart said. “Again, he practiced quarterback every day of his sophomore year and he played 95 percent at receiver. That's going to be the plan until it's not. If we've got three quarterbacks that we feel are varsity-level quarterbacks . . . I think Mikal causes matchup considerations when he's out there in a receiver stance.”
As for the 6-foot, 173-pound Rumfield, Stewart said he's been a relatively quick study with Temple's playbook and has displayed skill as a passer.
“Reese is playing catch-up and going through Q school before and after school,” Stewart said, referring to Sadler's intensive training program for Temple's quarterbacks. “The ball comes out of his hand pretty good. He looks really good, really promising. He's got great feet and great vision. He's got a little bit of that gunslinger mentality, which is good in a lot of ways. (But) it can be troublesome. That's going to come with a 15-year-old quarterback. You don't need to win it on every play.
“Right now we're just trying to get him installed in the offense. It's going to be who picks it up and who can read the field. That's stuff you have to evaluate. You see the upside on that kid. It's the same with Luke. It's going to be, how do they progress?”
On the defensive side, Temple's Dexter Knox-coordinated unit shut out Waxahachie in a 38-0 bi-district playoff victory but a week later couldn't withstand Rockwall-Heath's high-octane attack, which compiled 661 total yards and eight touchdowns in the Hawks' 56-28 area-round win at Baylor.
Incoming junior linebacker and 12-6A Defensive MVP Taurean York is gearing up for his third straight season as a varsity starter, and Temple picked up another talented move-in player when junior-to-be cornerback Naeten Mitchell arrived from Manor midway through this school year.
“I don't think we have extensive depth at any position, but where we do have experience is in the secondary,” said Stewart, who has another returning first-team all-district player in senior-to-be safety O'Tarian Peoples.
Stewart said the Wildcats are going through something of a shakeup on their defensive line following the graduation of stalwart tackles Jayven Taylor and Cody Little. A starting end as a junior, 6-5, 250-pound Tommy Torres is shifting to one of the two tackle spots, while incoming junior Jaylon Jackson has slimmed down to 190 pounds and is moving from backup tackle to starting end.
Incoming senior and first-team all-district performer Eric Shorter returns at one end spot, and 240-pound sophomore-to-be Ayden Brown is the projected starter at the other tackle position.
“Tommy Torres is working more on the inside, and he's strong enough to handle it. He understands leverage and he's smart with that stuff,” Stewart said. “Jaylon Jackson been working on the edge. He's starting to lean out a little bit and he's very twitchy – quick and explosive. We're probably faster than we've been (on the defensive front), minus losing Jayven. Tommy gives us extra length. He's going to do his job with gap integrity and he's going to free up Taurean more consistently."