CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES: Temple senior wide receiver Devan Williams (1) is congratulated by teammates after catching a 57-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Reese Rumfield (10) 3 minutes into the first quarter of the Wildcats' 60-53 win over Hutto on Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. Rumfield connected with Williams for a 65-yard score in the third period and threw three TDs overall against the Hippos, including a 52-yarder to Andre Anderson. Temple finished 1-2 in non-district play and after an open date will begin defense of its District 12-6A championship at Bryan (0-3) on Sept. 24. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
The Temple Wildcats didn’t make many of their own breaks or have many bounces go their way in the football season’s first two games, frustrating home losses to Austin Westlake and Magnolia West by a combined 54 points.
But just more than a minute into Friday night’s non-district finale against Hutto at Wildcat Stadium, Temple got an inkling that its fortunes finally were changing for the better.
Wildcats sophomore quarterback Reese Rumfield fired a pass over the middle to slanting senior tight end KeAndre Smith. The ball glanced off of Smith’s hands but kept going directly into those of senior receiver Andre Anderson, who caught it in stride and sprinted in for a 52-yard touchdown with only 1:20 gone.
Temple then stripped the ball away from Hippos running back Jalon Banks and junior safety Naeten Mitchell recovered it before Rumfield connected with senior receiver Devan Williams for a 57-yard touchdown pass and a 14-0 lead less than 3 minutes into the game.
The fast-starting Wildcats eventually led 35-21 at halftime and expanded the advantage to 52-21 in the third quarter before Hutto produced five fourth-quarter touchdowns – two in the final 14 seconds against reserve defenders – to make the final margin respectable in a 60-53 Temple victory that lasted 3½ hours and revived some of the Wildcats’ past swagger.
“We definitely got our juice back. We were actually playing Temple Wildcat football tonight,” said Temple senior running back Samari Howard, the reigning District 12-6A Co-MVP who rushed for 138 yards with a 31-yard touchdown, ran in a 2-point conversion and tackled Hutto’s punter for an 18-yard loss. “We kind of got away from that the first two weeks, but we regrouped, got in the film room, got in the weight room and just grinded it out.”
Said Temple sixth-year head coach Scott Stewart: “I told them, ‘At some point the top’s going to blow off and it’s going to be fun to watch,’ and that was pretty fun to watch and it was pretty fun to coach tonight.”
After Temple made far too many mistakes while getting outplayed and worn down by Westlake and Magnolia West, the Wildcats (1-2) delivered a strong all-around performance through three quarters against Hutto (1-2) to give them a much-needed jolt going into their open week before they begin their seven-game 12-6A schedule Sept. 24 at Bryan (0-3).
“Man, it’s been crazy, but it definitely feels good. It definitely gives us a little bit of momentum going into district, so I’m just excited right now,” Howard said. “Even though other circumstances happened (in the fourth quarter), it didn’t matter. We still got the ‘W.’ In the second half we were just trying to get everybody some burn.”
GIMME THAT: Temple senior defensive end Dion Saunders (47) and senior defensive tackle Tommy Torres celebrate in front of Hutto quarterback Grayson Doggett after Saunders recovered a second-quarter fumble on a bad snap during the Wildcats' 60-53 win over the Hippos on Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. Temple limited Hutto to 21 points through three quarters before the Hippos scored five fourth-quarter touchdowns while primarily going against the Wildcats' reserve defenders. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Stewart spoke earlier in the week about wanting his team to play not only better and more consistently but also harder at all times. Stewart got the desired response from his resilient Wildcats, even though their fourth-quarter shortcomings on defense and special teams somewhat tempered his enthusiasm.
“Oh, man, our guys came out and played their tails off. We had fun. We told them we were going to open up the playbook and that we were going to trust the kids and just turn them loose. I thought they did a real good job of that,” Stewart said. “I think our reserves gave up 32 points, which is not acceptable. I’m not going to focus on the negative, but I told the guys (afterward), ‘If you’re wearing a jersey, you’re expected to play at a high level. I don’t coach 2s, 3s and 4s any differently (than the starters).’ They didn’t show up tonight like we should’ve, and we’ve got to work on that. They’ve got to practice with more intention.
“But by and large, we’re going to celebrate any win. Scoring 60 points, how about that offensive output? I’m very proud of our guys. We’ll celebrate it, but there’s a lot of film to watch and a lot of stuff to fix.”
Temple snapped a three-game losing streak that dated to its 56-28 defeat against Rockwall-Heath in the area round of the Class 6A Division II playoffs last December. The Wildcats’ last win was a 38-0 bi-district home victory over Waxahachie one week earlier.
All three of Rumfield’s touchdown passes – he’s thrown five TDs in the last two games – went for 50-plus yards: 52 to Anderson, 57 to Williams and a 65-yard strike to Williams (three catches for 133 yards) 2 minutes into the third period to give Temple a commanding 42-21 lead. The sophomore QB who moved to Temple in May benefited from an improving offensive line that played its best game, protecting the passer and opening big holes for backs Howard and fellow senior Tavaris Sullivan (two touchdown runs).
“I’ve said from jump street that Reese Rumfield is our quarterback and if he stays healthy and stays on track, he’ll set every (Temple passing) record known to man," Stewart said of Rumfield, who was 13-of-19 passing for 302 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions after being intercepted twice by Magnolia West a week ago. "He did a great job, and that’s who he is. He’s kind of loosened up, he likes having fun and you see it. That dude’s special.
"And our O-line did a great job. (Hutto) was huge up front and fast and physical, but I thought we played really consistent tonight and established the run, especially in the second half.”
Senior left tackle Colby Rice is the only returning starter on a line that includes sophomore left guard Endrei Sauls, senior center Jose Faz, junior right guard Augustin Silva and junior right tackle Jeremiah Mungia. Senior tight end Smith also provided key blocking against Hutto.
Leading 21-14 midway through the second quarter, Temple quickly expanded its advantage to 35-14 with a 6-yard touchdown run by junior Mikal Harrison-Pilot out of the quarterback position and then senior speedster Tr’Darius Taylor’s 52-yard punt return for a TD 2½ minutes later. Wildcats senior Danis Bajric kicked a 31-yard field goal and was 7-for-7 on extra points.
After becoming fatigued while playing 91 plays against top-ranked Westlake and 86 against Magnolia West, Temple’s defense played mostly well in the first half against Hutto. However, it did allow three long touchdowns: Jairiez Lambert’s 45-yard reception from Grayson Doggett, backup quarterback William Hammond’s 76-yard dash through the middle and Doggett’s 41-yard pass to Lambert late in the second quarter to make it a 35-21 game at halftime.
The Wildcats responded by shutting Hutto out in the third quarter as they built a 52-21 advantage before the Hippos – who finished with 400 passing yards and more than 560 overall – erupted for 32 fourth-quarter points, highlighted by sophomore Hammond’s four touchdown passes against Temple’s reserve defenders. Damayon Jones caught a 10-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds remaining and, after Temple failed to secure the ensuing kickoff, Gary Choice caught a 2-yard TD pass as time expired to make the final score more respectable.
“We’ve got to eliminate mistakes. And we’ve got to be judicious (about substitutions),” Stewart said, clearly displeased by Temple’s late-game breakdowns on defense. “When I wholesale (substitute) the 2s in, I expect at least a decent level of play. They’re not the 1s and I got that, but we can’t just fall apart, either.
“We got to the point where we made that a one-score game, which was absolutely ridiculous. So we’ll practice a little different with those guys. But man, if we can just keep going in the right direction and stay healthy, this team could be (successful).”
Temple’s starting offense scored zero touchdowns against Westlake's stingy defense and only two against Magnolia West, but the Wildcats couldn’t have gotten off to a hotter start against Hutto squad that rebounded from a 59-11 loss to state-ranked College Station by winning 27-14 at Waco last week.
NOWHERE TO GO: Temple senior Samari Howard swarms Hutto punter Timothy Hollenbeck for an 18-yard loss following a high snap during the third quarter of the Wildcats' 60-53 win over the Hippos in Friday's non-district finale at Wildcat Stadium. Howard, District 12-6A's Co-MVP last year, rushed for 138 yards with a 31-yard touchdown and ran in a 2-point conversion as Temple secured its first victory of the season. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
After Temple’s defense began the game by forcing a three-and-out series, Rumfield’s crisp pass zipped through the slanting Smith’s hands, but an opportunistic Anderson was in the perfect spot to grab it 10 yards downfield before racing past the secondary for the 52-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 1:20 gone.
A week after his early interception set up a Rumfield-to-Williams touchdown pass, Mitchell then recovered the ball at Temple’s 43-yard line after the Wildcats forced a fumble by running back Banks.
Temple proceeded to demonstrate its quick-strike ability on the next play when Williams ran a post pattern and Rumfield’s pass hit him in stride en route to a 57-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead only 2:50 into the game.
“Our offensive coordinator, Coach (Josh) Sadler, from the jump he said, ‘We’re going to go attack them early and we’re not going to let off the gas at all,’” Howard said. “We’ve got to play it how we just played it tonight. We’ve got to go attack fast.”
Hutto did battle back, though. Late in the first quarter Lambert beat his defender down the right seam for a 45-yard touchdown reception from Doggett, then Howard broke off three consecutive good runs but fumbled and the Hippos recovered at their 24. On the opening period’s final play, Hutto inserted Hammond at quarterback and the skilled sophomore broke through a hole in Temple’s line before sprinting untouched for a 76-yard touchdown and a 14-14 deadlock.
Undeterred, the Wildcats answered by scoring the next three touchdowns in a 6-minute outburst to build a 35-14 advantage. Temple drove to Hutto’s 31 on its ensuing possession before Howard blasted off left tackle, cut back and then tightroped the left sideline for his first rushing touchdown this season.
Wildcats defensive end Dion Saunders then recovered a fumble at his 44 after a bad snap, and a scrambling Rumfield threw to Harrison-Pilot on the left sideline for a 19-yard gain. A Hutto penalty moved the ball to the 6 before Harrison-Pilot, in the shotgun formation, dashed off right tackle and cruised inside the pylon for a touchdown and a 28-14 lead.
HE'S GONE: Temple senior Tr'Darius Taylor sprints past Hutto sophomore William Hammond to score a touchdown on a 52-yard punt return as head coach Scott Stewart (right, holding headset) looks on during the second quarter of the Wildcats' 60-53 victory over the Hippos on Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. Taylor's score capped a flurry of three touchdowns in 6 minutes for Temple (1-2), which earned its first win this season in its non-district finale. The Wildcats begin District 12-6A competition at Bryan on Sept. 24. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Two minutes later, a Hutto punt slipped through Taylor’s hands at midfield, but the fleet-footed senior quickly scooped it up at his 48 and then showcased the speed that made him the anchor leg on Temple’s 4x100-meter relay team that placed sixth in May’s 6A state meet. He darted right, broke a tackle, then cut back left and outran everyone along the sideline for a 52-yard touchdown return and a 35-14 game 3:17 before halftime.
Temple’s defense then broke down as Lambert found an opening in the secondary to catch Doggett’s pass and sprint in for the 41-yard touchdown that trimmed the Wildcats’ lead to 35-21.
However, Temple’s offense came back in the third quarter with a 17-point flurry that essentially gave the Wildcats enough breathing room to withstand Hutto’s big fourth-period finish. On the second half’s first series, Williams blazed past defenders along the right seam and caught Rumfield’s well-thrown pass for a 65-yard touchdown and a 42-21 lead.
After a short Hutto punt, Howard ripped off back-to-back 19-yard runs before Sullivan rushed straight ahead for a 2-yard touchdown to make it 49-21. Hippos punter Timothy Hollenbeck then had to retreat to field a high snap and Howard swarmed him at the 2 for a key turnover. Temple was unable to convert it into a touchdown, but Bajric kicked a 31-yard field goal to extend the lead to 52-21 with 4:18 remaining in the third.
As the Wildcats began to mix in their reserve defenders, Hutto drove to the 1 before hulking junior Brody Bujnoch bullied his way across the goal line for a fourth-down touchdown on the fourth quarter’s first play, though Saunders blocked the extra point to keep the score 52-27.
Temple’s offense bogged down in the fourth, and Hutto used Hammond’s touchdown passes of 17 yards to Lambert and 4 yards to Carson LaPlante against backup defenders to slice the Wildcats’ lead to 52-40 with 2:44 remaining.
But Harrison-Pilot’s lengthy return on the ensuing onside kickoff led to Sullivan’s powerful 4-yard touchdown run, and holder Howard picked up a low snap and dashed inside the right pylon for the 2-point conversion to make it 60-40 with 1:39 left.
Never-say-die Hutto then put a dent in the final margin as Hammond hit Jones for a 10-yard touchdown and, after Temple mishandled the onside kickoff, found to a wide-open Choice for a 2-yard TD as time finally expired, a few minutes past 11 p.m.
“I thought our first two units on each side of the ball came out and played their tails off,” Stewart said. “(It was) sloppy, sloppy, sloppy on special teams, but we’ll take a win any way we can get it right now.”
After Temple snapped its frustrating losing skid, Stewart said the most important thing to him was that the Wildcats answered the coaches’ challenge of, as Howard put it, simply getting back to playing Temple Wildcat football.
“The thing we said was, ‘The guys who established all this tradition for the last 100 years, they’re not coming tonight. They didn’t come last week, they’re not coming next week, they’re not coming any week. They did their part; now you’ve got to do yours. The magic is not in the (blue-front, white-back) pants; the magic is about the men in the pants,’” Stewart said. “So we harped on that all week long.”