FIRST TEST: With opener vs. Westlake looming, Temple hits road to scrimmage sturdy College Station
RIGHT INTO THE ACTION: Sophomore quarterback Reese Rumfield will direct Temple's first-team offense when the Wildcats scrimmage College Station on Thursday evening at approximately 6:30 at Cougar Field. Joining the Midlothian Heritage transfer in the Wildcats' quarterback competition are senior Kaleb Hill and sophomores Luke Law and Damarion Willis. Both Temple coach Scott Stewart and College Station coach Steve Huff guided their teams to 10-2 seasons in 2020. (File photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
COLLEGE STATION – After practicing amongst and against each other for a week and a half, the Temple Wildcats are more than ready to test themselves against somebody else.
And with reigning state champion Austin Westlake coming to Temple for a season-opening showdown next Friday night, the timing is right for the Wildcats to go through something of a dress rehearsal.
For its only preseason scrimmage, Temple will travel to College Station to take on the always-tough Cougars on Thursday evening at Cougar Field.
The sub-varsity teams will begin their approximately one-hour scrimmage at 5 p.m., to be followed by the varsity squads’ scrimmage around 6:30 after the teams have warmed up.
“I love scrimmaging them,” Temple sixth-year head coach Scott Stewart said Wednesday about College Station, which has advanced to the state playoffs in all seven of its varsity seasons under the guidance of veteran head coach Steve Huff, whose record is 73-18. “You know College Station is always going to be a top-tier program. They always give us a really good look and are very well-coached.”
Both Temple and College Station compiled 10-2 seasons in 2020 and are expected to contend for district championships and make strong playoff runs this year.
After going 7-0 in District 12-6A last year, the Wildcats seek to capture their third straight district title and ninth consecutive postseason berth. College Station was the 8-5A Division I runner-up last year to Magnolia, whose head coach is former Temple offensive coordinator Craig Martin.
Temple and College Station were District 18-5A rivals in 2016 and 2017, clashing in a pair of late-season duels for the league championship. The Cougars staved off the Wildcats both times in memorable battles, prevailing 17-16 at Wildcat Stadium in 2016 and then seizing a 26-20 overtime win in 2017 en route to the Class 5A Division II state championship.
Temple ascended to the 6A classification in 2018, and this will be the fourth consecutive season that the Wildcats have met College Station for a scrimmage.
Stewart said the first half of Thursday’s scrimmage, which should last approximately two hours, will be the “controlled” portion, with alternating 12-play series matching the squads’ first-team offenses and defenses and then the second-team units. The plan is to go all the way through and then repeat the order.
The second half of the scrimmage will be the timed portion, featuring a regular game clock in the third quarter and then a running clock in the fourth period, other than when possession changes. The teams will practice kicking and punting situations, although kickers and punters will not be rushed and there will be no coverage on kickoffs.
Temple hasn’t had a returning starter at quarterback since two-year starter Reid Hesse in 2016, which was Stewart’s first season as head coach and concluded with the Wildcats reaching the 5A Division I state championship game. Beginning with TJ Rumfield in 2017 and continuing with Jared Wiley in 2018, Vance Willis in 2019 and Humberto Arizmendi in 2020, Temple has had a one-year senior starting QB in four straight seasons.
That is very likely to change this season, with sophomore QB Reese Rumfield getting most of the practice repetitions with the projected starting offense. Stewart said Rumfield, a skilled passer who transferred in from Midlothian Heritage in May, will take the field with the first-unit offense in Thursday’s scrimmage.
The other quarterbacks who are competing for playing time and/or varsity roster spots are senior Kaleb Hill – who’s also in the defensive backfield mix – and sophomores Luke Law and Damarion Willis. Stewart said Law and Willis likely will also play in the sub-varsity scrimmage.
Versatile junior Mikal Harrison-Pilot is another option at quarterback, but Stewart said the four-star recruit with 30-plus major college offers is focusing on his wide receiver position along with some probable action on defense at safety. Harrison-Pilot, a two-year starter on varsity, figures to get some snaps at QB in specialty situations, such as near the goal line.
Stewart reported no major injuries from the first 1½ weeks of training camp and said he didn’t expect to hold any players out of the scrimmage at College Station.
Next Friday’s 7:30 p.m. season opener with perennial power Westlake – the 6A Division II state champion in 2019 and the 6A D-I champion last season – will be the first of three consecutive home games for Temple. Also traveling to Bob McQueen Field at Wildcat Stadium will be Magnolia West, whose new head coach is former Temple offensive coordinator Ben McGehee, on Sept. 3 and Hutto on Sept. 10.