FINAL PAYBACK: Harrison-Pilot, York exorcise 2019 demons as complete Temple overwhelms Midway 44-10
SAFETY FIRST: Temple senior defender Jaylon Jackson tackles Waco Midway running back Draylon McGruder in the end zone for a third-quarter safety as senior linebacker Taurean York (5) looks on during the Wildcats' 44-10 victory over the Panthers on Friday night at Panther Stadium. District 12-6A co-leader Temple (5-2, 3-0) earned its 18th straight district win and defeated Midway (1-6, 1-1) for the first time in seven matchups dating to 2012. Jackson, York and Temple shut out Midway in the second half. (Photo by Matt Corley, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
HEWITT – One. That’s how many District 12-6A football games Temple has lost in the last four seasons.
The team responsible for dealing the Wildcats that lone defeat was Waco Midway, which beat them 52-28 at Panther Stadium on Nov. 1, 2019.
Starting for Temple’s defense that night were two 14-year-old freshmen: Mikal Harrison-Pilot at safety and Taurean York at linebacker.
Approximately 2½ hours before Friday night’s Temple-Midway showdown on the same field, York had his picture taken on the south 16-yard line, where he lost a crucial fumble while returning an interception. The Panthers quickly converted that takeaway into a touchdown and never looked back as they ran away and moved to 6-0 all-time against the Wildcats.
But York, now a first-team all-state player and a two-time 12-6A Defensive MVP, never forgot that moment and that feeling. The only text attached to the photo he posted on social media: “1,071 days” – exactly how long it had been since Temple’s frustrating setback at Midway.
Now highly seasoned and productive four-year starters, seniors Harrison-Pilot and York had one final opportunity to make a statement by beating nemesis Midway.
Back at Panther Stadium, two of the best players in Wildcats program history let their stellar play do the talking and exorcised some Temple demons in the process.
Harrison-Pilot caught a Reese Rumfield touchdown pass, rushed for two TDs and tossed a jump-pass TD to Landon Halvorson in a tour de force performance as the Wildcats romped to a 36-10 halftime lead, then York and his defense recorded a second-half shutout as district-leading Temple mashed Midway 44-10 for its first victory against the Panthers in seven tries.
“It feels great. We came out with a gameplan that our coaches put together and we executed it and came out with a W. It’s been a long time since we beat these guys, so I’m just relieved,” Harrison-Pilot, the versaile four-star recruit, said after improving to 24-1 in district games with Temple. “My freshman year was the last time we came here and it was a bad game for us. But we came back and it was a little revenge game for me. It feels good and relieves the stress off me.
“Today I had the mindset of, ‘I’m not going to let it happen again.’ I came out here and just did what I had to do and we had a good team win.”
York is known not only for his sure tackling but also for having a long memory. Wearing green and gold gloves to symbolize his verbal commitment to nearby Baylor, Temple’s senior middle linebacker spoke about the feeling of finally making amends for a rare low moment in his outstanding career.
“It’s great. You saw the picture I posted earlier – it was 1,071 days. I just took another picture there, just a before-and-after. I looked back on that really a lot and reflected on how far I’ve come in my journey,” York said. “You’ve always got to use moments like that as intrinsic motivation. You can never forget that. I think we came out and played four quarters of Wildcat football, for sure.”
Junior quarterback Rumfield ran for a 9-yard touchdown in the second quarter and senior linebacker Jaylon Jackson recorded a third-quarter safety to help Temple (5-2) move to 3-0 in district, tied for the 12-6A lead with Harker Heights (6-1, 3-0). Those teams clash in Killeen on Oct. 21 after the Wildcats’ homecoming game against Hutto (3-3, 0-2) next Friday at Wildcat Stadium.
Wildcats seventh-year head coach Scott Stewart didn’t claim to take any additional pleasure in beating Midway (1-6, 1-2), whose Panthers handed him his first head coaching loss in 2016 and four defeats from 2016-19. However, Stewart realized that the breakthrough victory had special importance for four-season stalwarts Harrison-Pilot and York.
“I’m glad they’re Temple Wildcats. They played like grown men,” Stewart said. “Again, I don’t do ‘monkeys on the back’ and all that – that’s for you guys. Hopefully it’s several more weeks from now, but shorter than not they’re going to go off and transition to another level and they’ll always been able to say, ‘We weren’t winless against (Midway).’ So I’m proud for them.
“There was probably some jawing going back and forth. They showed me a couple of memes that I guess some of (Midway’s) guys created, and I said, ‘Did you answer back?’ And they said, ‘We didn’t say a word.’ That actually gives you satisfaction. I love (Panthers second-year head coach) Shane Anderson. He’s as solid a coach and as solid a man as I’ve ever met, so this isn’t like a personal victory for me. We put a good plan together and we executed it and we played well enough to win. Now we’ve got to clean it up.”
Stewart was referring to Temple’s sloppy play that included two offside penalties that led to long Midway passes on free plays, a lost fumble, errant snaps, dropped passes, a 2-yard punt, a missed extra point and even a 15-yard penalty called on the Wildcats’ head coach for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Overall, though, Stewart appreciated the manner in which the Wildcats controlled the action en route to their second 34-point victory in district play.
“I’m trying to learn to celebrate all wins, and our kids, that’s the first time we’ve actually, legitimately put four quarters together,” Stewart said. “But we’ve got to clean it up. The consistency . . . we look like we understand who we’re trying to block and we look like we’re doing that at a high level with a high-effort level. We’re running the ball better and throwing it and catching it. I thought Reese played like a grown man tonight. Now we’ve just got to clean it up.
“The first half, we moved the ball up and down the field – not at will, but effectively. Second half, we moved the ball until we got to the 15-yard line, then it was a comedy of errors. So we’ve got to clean that stuff up, because that will hurt you bad against some of the teams we’re going to have to face.”
CLEAN PATH: Temple junior quarterback Reese Rumfield crosses the goal line for a 9-yard touchdown run in the second quarter as wide receiver Mikal Harrison-Pilot looks on during the Wildcats' 44-10 win in District 12-6A action Friday night at Panther Stadium. Rumfield (200 passing yards) threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Harrison-Pilot for the game's first score and their third TD connection in two weeks. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Taking advantage of big holes created by his aggressive offensive line, Temple senior running back Deshaun Brundage rushed for 159 yards on 13 carries to pace the Wildcats’ 269-yard ground attack. Junior Jervonnie Williams’ 9-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter was the only second-half score for Temple’s offense, which accumulated 472 total yards.
“This is like the first official game where I feel like our whole offense was really going on all levels. We’ve had other decent games on offense, but tonight I felt like we really got everything going,” Temple senior right tackle Jeremiah Mungia said. “And we started fast. That’s the biggest thing we needed to do, because we started so many other games slow. That was really good for us.”
Midway’s offense was hindered by the loss of dynamic junior quarterback Junior Thornton, who ran for 563 yards and six touchdowns in his first three starts at QB but suffered a broken collarbone during the Panthers’ 24-13 loss last week at Harker Heights.
“Thornton is a special player. I would put him in the same category as Mikal and (Harker Heights running back and reigning 12-6A MVP) Re’Shaun Sanford,” York said. “I walked past him when we were getting taped and talked to him for 10 minutes. I praised him, and I don’t praise many people. He’s electric and I foresee him being the overall (district) MVP or at least Offensive MVP next year.”
On the topic of talented playmakers, Temple sophomore wide receiver Christian Tutson returned after missing last week’s 32-19 home win over Pflugerville Weiss with an upper-body injury. The speedy Tutson, who’s made six touchdown catches and scored eight TDs overall, had two receptions for 102 yards against Midway, highlighted by a 73-yard strike from Rumfield that led to Harrison-Pilot’s 3-yard TD pass to Halvorson with 8 seconds remaining in the first half.
With 6-foot-7 senior and previous starter Reid Tedford playing quarterback for Midway, Temple’s defense forced a three-and-out series to start the game.
Brundage blasted off left tackle for 25 yards on the Wildcats’ first snap. On third-and-9 from the Midway 19, Rumfield ran for an apparent first down but fumbled the ball at the 8 and Panthers safety recovered it at the 5.
TONE-SETTING TOUCHDOWN: Temple senior wide receiver Mikal Harrison-Pilot beats Waco Midway safety Phillip Minnitt to catch a 31-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Reese Rumfield during the first quarter of the Wildcats' 44-10 win over the Panthers on Friday night at Panther Stadium. Harrison-Pilot also ran for TDs of 3 and 10 yards and threw a 3-yard scoring pass to Landon Halvorson as Temple grabbed a 36-10 halftime lead on its way to defeating Midway for the first time. (Photo by Matt Corley, Temple ISD/Special to TemplebeltonSports.com)
However, another three-and-out series for Temple’s physical defense forced a punt that gave the Wildcats possession at Midway’s 43. Rumfield rushed for 17 yards, then fired an on-target pass that a sprawling Harrison-Pilot caught in the middle for a 31-yard touchdown, his third TD reception in his last two halves of football. The first of Marcos Garcia’s four extra points gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead 4 minutes into the game.
Temple’s defense made a key mistake on Midway’s ensuing drive. On third-and-7 from the Panthers’ 28, a defender jumped offside, giving Midway a free play. Tedford fired a pass over the middle to athletic receiver Ramone Conway, who broke a tackle and raced to Temple’s 30 for a 42-yard gain. Dom Hill rushed for 12 yards to the 1, then Tedford followed his center for a touchdown keeper and a 7-7 game with 4:41 left in the opening period.
However, that proved to the high-water mark for Midway’s inconsistent offense.
On the first play after senior Naeten Mitchell’s 35-yard kickoff return, Brundage exploded through a hole and galloped 58 yards to the 7. Taking a direct snap from the 3, Harrison-Pilot dashed off right tackle for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead at the 3:30 mark.
“I would say yes, this is the best game we’ve all had overall. We really got some movement up front and just got the running game going,” said Mungia, who was joined on the line by fellow tackle Armando Gonzales, guards Agustin Silva and Seth Martinez and center Endrei Sauls along with reserve lineman Dexter Hewitt.
After another Temple defensive stop and short Midway punt set up the Wildcats at the Panthers’ 38 to start the second quarter, Rumfield ran for 18 yards before Harrison-Pilot took a handoff, ran to the right side, followed his blockers and crashed through would-be tacklers for a 10-yard touchdown – his fifth TD overall in two games – and a 21-7 advantage.
Hill and Midway responded with a sharp drive to reach the Temple 18, but the Wildcat defense stiffened before James Satterfield kicked a 35-yard field goal for a 21-10 game 7:25 before halftime.
KNOCKED LOOSE: Temple junior nose tackle Ayden Brown (94) tackles Waco Midway quarterback Reid Tedford, forcing a second-quarter fumble that senior tackle Ka'Morion Carter recovered during the Wildcats' 44-10 district win at Panther Stadium on Friday night. Supporting Brown on the play is senior Jaylon Jackson (0). (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Midway’s defense then stopped Harrison-Pilot’s fourth-down run for a 2-yard loss and a turnover on downs at the Panthers 40, but turnabout was fair play as junior nose tackle Ayden Brown stripped the ball away from Tedford on the next play and senior tackle Ka’Morion Carter recovered the fumble for the Wildcats on the 23.
On third-and-11, Rumfield (10-of-19 passing, 200 yards) rolled right and tossed a touch pass that Brundage caught near the sideline for 15 yards to the 9. Rumfield then raced off left tackle for a 9-yard score – already the 180-pounder's fourth rushing touchdown this season after he ran for one TD in 12 games as a 160-pound sophomore starter last year.
“I enjoy it. Every time I see him run into the end zone for a touchdown, I know that we played a part in it,” Mungia said about Rumfield, who totaled 67 yards on five first-half carries.
Out of the swinging gate formation, junior Damarion Willis fielded a bouncing shotgun snap and ran straight ahead for the 2 -point conversion and a 29-10 Temple lead 3:48 before halftime.
On the verge of putting Midway away, the Wildcats made another key miscue on defense. On third-and-4 from the Panthers 31, Temple jumped offside and again Tedford threw deep to Conway on the free play for a 40-yard strike to the 29.
“Just foolish penalties. We hop offside every time somebody goes on two (on the snap count) on third down, and I don’t understand why,” York said. “Every third down, no matter if it’s third-and-1 or third-and-30, we always say they’re going to go with a hard count against us. So we have to clean that up for sure in the front seven.”
But the Panthers were unable to make the Wildcats pay on the scoreboard. Two Tedford runs pushed Midway to the 15, but Temple popped him for a 3-yard loss and Satterfield hooked his 35-yard field goal try wide left with 48 seconds remaining.
Temple was not content to take a 19-point lead into the locker room. From the Wildcats 15, the fleet-footed Tutson beat his defender along the left sideline, caught Rumfield’s bomb at the Midway 40 and finally was pushed out at the 12 for a 73-yard outburst.
“I’m feeling real good about it,” Harrison-Pilot said about an expanding Temple offense that now is incorporating more players, including defensive starters such as Mitchell and Willis. “Everybody thinks it’s just a one-man show for us, but it’s really not. We’ve got the athletes to beat anybody we want to. They can’t just worry about me. They’ve got to worry about everybody else.”
NEWFOUND TERRITORY: Temple senior tight end Landon Halvorson gets past Waco Midway defender Landon Whisenton to catch a 3-yard touchdown pass from Mikal Harrison-Pilot 8 seconds before halftime, putting the Wildcats up 36-10 en route to their 44-10 win Friday at Panther Stadium. It was the first career TD scored by Halvorson, who made three receptions for 23 yards. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Midway was penalized for pass interference, giving Temple first-and-goal at the 3 with 13 seconds remaining. Playing quarterback, Harrison-Pilot took a shotgun snap and ran forward a couple steps but then jumped and flicked a soft pass over Midway’s defenders that burly senior tight end Halvorson caught in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown with 8 seconds left, pushing Temple’s commanding lead to 36-10.
“We’ve had that (play) for quite a while. We just never bring it out because we didn’t really need it,” a smiling Harrison-Pilot said. “Today was just the day to do it, and we did it and it worked out.”
Temple had a promising drive to begin the second half as it marched to the Midway 21, but a low snap went for a 14-yard loss before two Rumfield passes glanced off receivers’ hands before an attempted pooch punt was shanked out of bounds for a 2-yard kick.
Stewart was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct – a first in his long career, he said afterward – while arguing an official’s call on Midway’s ensuing possession. The Panthers drove to the Temple 14, but senior cornerback Kaiden Anderson broke up a third-down pass to the end zone before Satterfield’s low-trajectory 36-yard field goal missed.
Brundage’s 20-yard run and Rumfield’s 29-yard pass to Tutson pushed Temple to the 7. With the Wildcats lined up for a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 10, holder Willis stood up and tried to score on the right side but was tackled at the 2.
OFF TO THE RACES: Temple senior running back Deshaun Brundage (6) runs through a large hole created by his linemen to gain some of his 159 yards on 13 carries during the Wildcats' 44-10 win at Waco Midway on Friday night. He had rushes of 58, 25 and 20 yards. (Photo by Matt Corley, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
The turnover on downs didn’t hurt Temple much, though. Midway’s Draylon McGruder took a handoff in the end zone and immediately was swarmed and tackled by Jackson for a safety and a 38-10 game to end the third quarter.
Mitchell dashed across the field for a 48-yard return to the 20 on Midway’s ensuing free kick, and Williams rushed for 7- and 4-yard gains to the 9 before he ran in easily off left tackle for the touchdown in the final period’s first minute to complete the scoring.
As Temple seeks its fourth consecutive 12-6A championship and eventually an extended run in the Class 6A state playoffs, York said the Wildcats remain hungry – even with an 18-game district winning streak that began a week after that painful loss at Midway in 2019.
“Eighteen district wins in a row, I didn’t know that. But everybody knows the type of football we play in Temple. We just have to play that constantly, week in and week out. That has to be the constant standard,” York said. “We can get jittery. Like the Willis game (Temple's 34-20 home win Sept. 2), we killed them for three quarters and then in the fourth quarter we let them score.
“I’m glad we held Midway under 17 points. That’s a (helmet) sticker for us. I just like that we played a complete game and played our standard of football."
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