FLIPPING THE SCRIPT: Temple contains Willis star QB Lagway, finds offensive sparks for 34-20 victory
Updated: Sep 6, 2022
UNDER PRESSURE: Temple senior defensive end Jaylon Jackson hits Willis junior quarterback Derek Lagway as he releases a pass during the Wildcats' 34-20 victory over the Wildkats in Temple's home opener Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. After throwing for six touchdowns in Willis' opening win, Lagway was 7-for-20 passing for 103 yards and an interception. The highly recruited dual-threat QB ran for a 75-yard TD but his other 13 rushed totaled minus-26 yards as Temple's defense applied constant pressure. Lagway suffered an apparent leg injury early in the third quarter and missed the final 1 1/2 quarters. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
Going into the Temple football team’s home opener Friday night at Wildcat Stadium, it seemed possible – and perhaps probable – that the Wildcats might have to produce a late score or come up with a late defensive stop to defeat star junior quarterback Derek Lagway and speedy, high-scoring Willis.
However, sometimes live sports can be difficult to predict.
After passing for six touchdowns in Willis’ season-opening 73-14 thrashing of Bryan Rudder, top national recruit Lagway didn’t throw for any TDs against No. 25-ranked Temple as he dealt with constant defensive pressure. In fact, an apparent lower leg injury he suffered early in the third quarter kept the Wildkats’ big, strong-armed, mobile QB – who sprinted 75 yards for a second-quarter touchdown – on the sideline for the final 1½ periods.
After not making any receptions in Temple’s opening 17-10 win at McKinney last Saturday, sophomore Christian Tutson and junior Jaquon Butler caught a combined six passes for 197 yards – with three touchdowns totaling 146 yards – from junior quarterback Reese Rumfield.
After being limited to 51 rushing yards by McKinney, Wildcats senior running back Deshaun Brundage pounded the Willis defense for 168 yards on 27 carries.
And after clinging to a 10-7 halftime lead following its up-and-down performance in the first two quarters, Temple used a mixture of quick-strike offense, hard-hitting defense and sloppy play by Willis to dominate the third period 24-0 and build a commanding 34-7 advantage.
Willis scored two touchdowns without Lagway in the game’s final 9 minutes to make the margin closer than Temple head coach Scott Stewart wanted, but it all added up to a well-rounded 34-20 victory for the Wildcats (2-0) in their first game on Bob McQueen Field’s new artificial turf.
“I think we came out of the locker room (for the second half) ready to give it all we had and ready to just put it all on them and finish,” said the fleet-footed Tutson, who in his varsity home debut caught Rumfield’s 65-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter and made a 32-yard TD grab midway through the third to cap Temple’s dizzying spurt of 21 points in less than 5 minutes.
SHOOTING THE GAP: Temple sophomore wide receiver Christian Tutson sprints between two Willis defenders to score a 32-yard touchdown on a pass from junior Reese Rumfield during the third quarter of the 25th-ranked Wildcats' 34-20 win Friday night in their home opener at Wildcat Stadium. Tutson caught a 65-yard TD from Rumfield in the second quarter and finished with four receptions for 128 yards in his home varsity debut. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Wildcats senior cornerback/safety Naeten Mitchell nabbed two interceptions – one against Lagway on the first half’s final play and one against senior backup QB Hutton Hoegemeyer in the fourth.
“I’m very proud of everybody,” the New Mexico State-committed Mitchell said, describing his feelings about Temple’s performance. “We knew there was going to be a lot of competition, and we have standards. Our coaches were telling us all week about how Willis has the five-star quarterback and great receivers and speed.
"Once they told us it was going to be man (coverage) 90 percent of the game, we knew that we had a lot of pressure on our shoulders. We held it down.”
Stewart had a mixed-bag reaction afterward – clearly pleased that Temple’s players responded well in the third quarter to the motivational content of his halftime speech but also disappointed with the Wildcats’ shaky overall play in the fourth, which gave Willis (1-1) some late-game hope.
“I can’t repeat what I said at halftime,” Temple’s seventh-year coach said with a chuckle, “but I challenged them. I told them, ‘That’s not Wildcat football.’ I have zero problems and zero concerns about how hard these kids play. But we’ve got to get out of these stupid penalties, untimely penalties and being sloppy with the football. I thought our defense played lights-out in the third quarter, and then in the fourth we acted like we’d never seen a screen in our life.
“So that was my challenge to them over there (in the postgame meeting). I didn’t come to Temple and I didn’t move my family all over the state so that we could play a (great) third quarter and then put it in neutral. I moved my family all over the state because Temple kids don’t take their foot off the gas, and they’re not going to take their foot off the gas on my watch. So there’s going to be some people challenged. We’ll challenge them. But we’ve got to finish. (We outscored Willis) 24-0 in the third quarter, but what was it in the fourth?”
Added Mitchell: “We were holding it down the whole game, then unfortunately during the fourth quarter we kind of settled back and got too complacent. For sure we’ve got a lot of stuff to work on, because we’ve got the two best teams (at College Station next Friday and home against Arlington Martin on Sept. 16) we’re going to face coming up the next two weeks.”
One week after Temple’s physical defense knocked Southern Methodist-committed McKinney quarterback Keldric Luster out of the game with a second-quarter injury, a hard hit by the Wildcats sent the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Lagway to his sideline early in the third period with Temple leading 17-7.
The Wildcats had stretched it to 31-7 by the time Lagway – ranked by ESPN as the country’s best dual-threat quarterback in the 2024 recruiting class – came back in midway through the third. After throwing two consecutive incomplete passes, he limped to the sideline and did not return.
“I talked to one of the Willis receivers I was guarding after the game and he said we hurt him really bad,” Mitchell said about Lagway, who has dozens of offers from high-profile college programs. “I don’t know what happened. I think it was his ankle. I pray for him and hopefully he’s fine.”
Stewart echoed Mitchell’s sentiments and commended Hoegemeyer for giving Willis a spark after taking over for the dangerous Lagway.
“Well, they scored more points after Lagway went out, so obviously they ain’t broke. Lagway is such a great player and I just pray and hope that he’s OK, because he’s a special talent,” Stewart said. “We didn’t really do a whole lot different (after Lagway left), because we had watched (Hoegemeyer) and he can sling the ball around. He’s not Lagway, but gosh dang, who is? It wasn’t like they couldn’t move the ball when that kid came in.
“So we’ve got to shore it up. Again, I think we kind of took our foot off the gas and figured we’d just coast on in. But this is big-boy football and that doesn’t happen.”
COLLAPSING THE POCKET: Temple junior nose tackle Ayden Brown swarms Willis junior quarterback Derek Lagway as senior end Jaylon Jackson (0) closes in during the Wildcats' 34-20 victory Friday night in their home opener at Wildcat Stadium. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Temple all-state senior linebacker Taurean York and linemen such as seniors Jaylon Jackson, Julian White and Ka’Morion Carter and junior Ayden Brown constantly applied pressure to Lagway and made him earn almost everything he got, testing his physical stamina. The Wildkats’ QB was just 7-of-20 passing for 103 yards with one interception. Other than his 75-yard touchdown sprint, his other 13 rushing attempts went for a combined minus-26 yards.
Temple plays next Friday at familiar opponent College Station before the Wildcats host Arlington Martin in their non-district finale Sept. 16. Temple’s quest for its fourth straight District 12-6A championship begins Sept. 23 at Bryan.
Willis had the game’s first possession and in flashes demonstrated the athletic ability that overwhelmed Rudder a week earlier in head coach Trent Miller's Wildkats debut. White sacked Lagway for an 11-yard loss on the first play, but Lagway hit Jalen Mickens for 33 yards on third-and-21 and threw to Debraun Hampton for 19 yards on third-and-10.
The Wildkats eventually reached Temple’s 8-yard line, but a holding penalty negated Hampton’s touchdown catch and York sacked Lagway for a 9-yard loss to push Willis back to the 29 before Lagway’s deep fourth-down pass sailed incomplete to halt the 7½-minute drive.
On Temple’s second possession, a targeting penalty on Willis, Brundage’s 24-yard burst and a 19-yard scamper by shifty junior Jervonnie Williams helped the Wildcats advance to the 8. However, Brundage had to fall on a high snap for a loss of 15 before Marcos Garcia kicked a 40-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead 10 seconds into the second quarter.
Willis had a quick response, courtesy of the long-striding Lagway. He exploited an opening in the middle of Temple’s defense by running straight ahead on a draw play and sprinting untouched for a 75-yard touchdown and a 7-3 Wildkats lead.
EYES ON THE PRIZE: Temple junior quarterback Reese Rumfield runs past Willis junior linebacker Brock Petty to score a 5-yard touchdown during the third quarter of the Wildcats' 34-20 home opener victory Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. Rumfield recorded his second rushing touchdown this season and passed for 227 yards and three TDs. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Rumfield (10-of-25 passing, 227 yards, three touchdowns) had completed only one pass entering his team’s third possession, unable to connect with his usual top target, standout senior receiver Mikal Harrison-Pilot. But Rumfield hit senior Cameron Yoe transfer Pharrell Hemphill for a key 12-yard gain on third-and-10. After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Temple, Tutson raced past the Willis secondary and caught Rumfield’s deep pass in stride en route to a 65-yard touchdown that gave the Wildcats the lead for good at 10-7 1½ minutes into the second quarter.
“Tutson’s going to be scary,” Stewart said about the wide receiver who excelled last season for Temple’s freshman team. “That kid had some growing pains last week (at McKinney), and he took that really, really personally. He had a great week of preparation and came back and made some plays.”
The Wildcats threatened to add to their lead late in the first half, but freshman Jermaine Bishop charged through and blocked Garcia’s 35-yard field goal attempt after a high snap.
Lagway and Willis swiftly drove from their 20 to Temple’s 39, but on the half’s final play Lagway rolled to his left and threw a pass that Mitchell tracked and intercepted deep in Wildcats territory.
It was anybody’s game entering the third quarter, and it was Butler who delivered a crucial play for Temple. From the Willis 49 on the drive’s third play, Rumfield fired a quick throw to the left side for Butler. He made the catch, used a sharp-shifting move to evade the first defender and then turned on his speed to outrun everyone along the sideline for a 49-yard touchdown and a 17-7 Wildcats advantage.
“I’m very excited for them and happy for them, because they don’t get to shine that much. They’re great guys and this is what they do and show in practice, so it’s nothing really different,” Mitchell said about the breakthrough receiving games for Tutson (four catches, 128 yards) and Butler (two for 69). “They caught the ball today and both had touchdowns. That’s great. I like to see that right there.”
BRUNDAGE BREAKTHROUGH: Temple senior running back Deshaun Brundage moves past a Willis defender during the Wildcats' 34-20 win Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. Limited to 51 rushing yards in Temple's 17-10 season-opening win at McKinney last Saturday, Brundage exploded for 168 yards on 27 carries against Willis as the No. 25-ranked Wildcats improved to 2-0. Brundage had four rushes of 13-plus yards. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
While covering the ensuing kickoff, Mitchell and senior teammate Teryon Williams-Echols were shaken up after colliding and both had to be assisted off the field. On a warm, muggy evening, Mitchell became physically ill upon reaching the Temple sideline.
“After I caught that pick going into halftime, I was feeling kind of tight. I didn’t know what it was. I was trying to stretch out as much as I can, because once you get a cramp it’s really hard to come back from it,” Mitchell said. “My whole body was cramping. I drank a lot of water.
“I don’t like to come out of plays, so I tried to go back out there on strike (kickoff coverage). I ran down and then I think Teryon hit me in the stomach and after that it was over. I couldn’t get up. I just told them to get me off the field, because Coach Stew doesn’t like us (staying down) on the field.”
Lagway rushed for a 6-yard gain on Willis’ next play, but he remained down on the turf for a couple minutes while being attended to and eventually had to be helped off the field, unable to put weight on his injured leg.
The Wildkats had to punt shortly after Hoegemeyer replaced Lagway at quarterback, and Temple then proceeded to seize full control of the action.
A short Willis punt gave the Wildcats favorable field position at the Wildkats 23. After a Willis defender was ejected for throwing a punch, Rumfield patiently followed his linemen for a 5-yard touchdown run and a 24-7 lead 5 minutes into the third. Temple’s junior quarterback has two rushing TDs this season, one more than he produced while started every game last year for the 9-3 Wildcats.
ROOM TO ROAM: Temple junior running back Jervonnie Williams charges past Willis senior linebacker Macin Connell (23) for a 19-yard gain during the Wildcats' 34-20 victory Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Willis compounded its problems by fumbling on the ensuing kickoff return, as Eric Zavala recovered the ball for Temple at the Wildkats 22. A holding penalty pushed the Wildcats back, but Tutson gained inside position on a post pattern and caught Rumfield’s well-timed throw at the 15 before blazing past the secondary for a 32-yard touchdown, his second score of the evening. That extended the lead to 31-7 and capped Temple’s blitzkrieg of 21 points in a 4:35 span.
“It felt good to get back on the field today and prove myself,” Tutson said. “After those missed catches I had in the last game (at McKinney), I redeemed myself and got some catches in, so I feel like I had a big part of today’s win.”
Lagway checked back into the lineup on Willis’ next possession, but his return was brief. After he threw back-to-back incomplete passes, he walked gingerly back to the sideline and never came back in.
Tutson’s 17-yard reception helped move Temple into position and Garcia made a 34-yard field goal with 2:08 left in the third to complete the Wildcats’ scoring.
A short Temple punt 3 minutes into the fourth gave Willis a boost to get back into contention. Hoegemeyer passed to Mickens for 19 yards, then found Mickens open on the right side. The sophomore receiver dashed in for a 27-yard touchdown – although a video replay on the scoreboard showed that Mickens had stepped out of bounds near the 3 – to trim the Wildcats’ lead to 34-14 with 9 minutes remaining.
Temple’s next possession went nowhere and Willis got the ball back near midfield, but Mitchell smoothly made a stellar leaping interception on a deep pass by Hoegemeyer at the 11 for his second pick of the night.
However, on the next possession Willis recovered a Temple fumble at the Wildcats 21 with 5:13 remaining, keeping the Wildkats’ flickering hopes alive. Daylion Robinson rushed off right tackle for a 7-yard touchdown with 4:45 left, although the extra-point try fell short to keep it a 34-20 game. But Temple recovered the onside kickoff and a series a rugged runs by Brundage helped the Wildcats evaporate the clock to secure their 2-0 start.
Stewart said the game was reminiscent of Temple’s 60-53 non-district home win last year against Hutto, when the Wildcats built a seemingly comfortable second-half lead before their backup defenders allowed the pesky Hippos to get too close for comfort in the final minutes.
With more challenging games looming, Stewart used that as motivational fuel.
“I just told them, ‘I don’t know if you guys were here (for that Hutto game). That’s not how we play.’ And I told them that group took it personal and said, ‘We ain’t doing that no more,’” Stewart said. “But that was that group. I said, ‘I don’t care if you were here last year or not. That was those seniors’ team. This group hasn’t done anything yet.’ So this group has to fix that.”
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