MEASURING-STICK MATCHUP: Temple shoots to move to 3-0 in road clash vs. familiar foe College Station
CALM BEFORE THE STORM: Temple football captains Naeten Mitchell (4), Reese Rumfield, Mikal Harrison-Pilot and Taurean York await the coin toss before the Wildcats' home opener against Willis last Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. Temple led 34-7 after three quarters en route to a 34-20 win, improving to 2-0 entering the Wildcats' duel with old nemesis College Station (1-1) at 7:30 Friday night at Cougar Field. Temple is ranked 22nd in Class 6A, while first-year head coach Stoney Pryor and College Station are No. 9 in 5A Division I. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
COLLEGE STATION – The Temple football team won its Aug. 27 season opener 17-10 at McKinney, whose Lions rebounded a week later by blasting Richardson Berkner 48-12.
Willis walloped Bryan Rudder 73-14 in its season opener, then one week later fell into a 34-7 hole in the third quarter and lost 34-20 in Temple’s home debut last Friday night at Wildcat Stadium.
In other words, the Class 6A No. 22-ranked Wildcats (2-0) have recorded two victories against squads that played extremely well when facing opponents not named Temple.
But for head coach Scott Stewart and the Wildcats to produce their first 3-0 start since 2018, when they won their first eight games, Temple must go on the road and defeat a program it hasn’t had much success against: College Station.
The Cougars (1-1) of first-year head coach Stoney Pryor – previously College Station’s longtime offensive coordinator – are ranked No. 9 in 5A Division I entering their home showdown with Temple at 7:30 Friday night at Cougar Field.
Temple and College Station were District 18-5A rivals during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, and the Wildcats’ only league losses those years came in memorable battles against the always-tough Cougars.
College Station prevailed in a 17-16 classic at Temple in 2016, when the 12-4 Wildcats eventually advanced to the 5A Division I state championship game in Scott Stewart’s first season in charge. One year later, the Cougars dealt visiting Temple – a 10-4 regional runner-up – a crushing 26-20 defeat in overtime and went on to capture the 5A D-II state championship.
Steve Huff departed for Decatur in February following eight highly successful seasons (88-19 with eight playoff trips) as College Station’s original head coach. His final game was the previously undefeated Cougars’ 27-24 overtime loss to Katy Paetow in the 5A Division I state title game in Arlington.
Nonetheless, College Station’s rock-solid program figures to be in capable hands after veteran coach Pryor was promoted from offensive coordinator to the top job.
Temple and College Station became even more familiar with each other when they met for four preseason scrimmages from 2018-21, competitive get-togethers that prepared both teams for their roads ahead. Stewart has long considered the Cougars to be an excellent measuring stick for his Wildcats teams, and it’s no different going into their first regular-season clash in almost five years.
“Absolutely. If you said, ‘Give me one word that describes College Station,’ it’s ‘Katy,’” Stewart said Tuesday afternoon, referring to the Houston-area perennial state powerhouse. “They’re not going to make mistakes, they’re not going to do stupid stuff, they’re going to play legal, they’re not going to break down and they’re not going to bust a coverage.
“You’ve got to beat them, especially going to their place. They’re just very, very disciplined and they look like the exact same team that Huff coached. Coach Pryor does a great job with them.”
Pryor’s head coaching tenure got off to a rough start as College Station lost 52-27 to Lucas Lovejoy – currently ranked No. 3 in 5A Division II – in its Aug. 27 opener at Allen. However, the Cougars bounced back well in Pryor’s home debut last Friday, pummeling private school opponent Fort Worth Nolan Catholic 52-7 in a weather-delayed game that didn’t begin until after 9:30 p.m. and concluded just before midnight.
Stewart said his film study of the College Station-Lovejoy game revealed that the combination of the Leopards’ talent and first-game mistakes by the Cougars proved too much for College Station to overcome.
“A, Lovejoy is talented, and B, they’re out of the same mold and don’t make mistakes. It looked like there was a couple of big plays (for Lovejoy) and then (College Station) started pressing a little bit,” Stewart said. “If you just watched the first quarter and a half, it would never suggest that it was a 52-27 game.”
Stewart pointed out that Nolan Catholic’s offense didn’t record a first down until the 83rd snap of the game at College Station, whose defense recovered from its Game 1 problems by limiting the overmatched Vikings to 164 total yards.
INVADING THE BACKFIELD: Temple senior defensive end Julian White (right) grabs Willis junior quarterback Derek Lagway as Wildcats senior linebacker Taurean York closes in during Temple's 34-20 victory in its home opener last Friday at Wildcat Stadium. Baylor commitment York tallied 2 1/2 of Temple's eight sacks and White had 1 1/2 sacks as the Wildcats didn't allow a touchdown pass against Lagway, one of the country's top-ranked recruits. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Meanwhile, Temple found itself in a surprisingly low-scoring battle against star junior quarterback Derek Lagway and Willis at Wildcat Stadium, with the Wildcats leading 10-7 at halftime on the newly installed artificial turf of Bob McQueen Field.
But the game changed in a hurry in the third quarter as Temple knocked Lagway out of the game with a leg injury and the Wildcats exploded for 21 points in a 5-minute span. Junior Jaquon Butler took a short pass from junior QB Reese Rumfield and sprinted for a 49-yard touchdown down the left sideline to spark the flurry.
Rumfield then rushed for a 5-yard TD and fired a 32-yard scoring pass to sophomore speedster Christian Tutson – their second touchdown connection of the evening – to make it 31-7 midway through the third. Marcos Garcia added a 34-yard field goal as Temple outscored Willis 24-0 in the third to take a commanding 34-7 lead into the final period.
Although Stewart was proud of that dominant stretch, he was quite bothered by what he witnessed during the final 12 minutes. Temple’s lead was large enough that its reserves were on the verge of getting a large chunk of playing time, but the Wildcats had a short punt early in the fourth and Willis quickly got a 27-yard touchdown pass to make it 34-14.
Temple’s next possession went nowhere and the Wildcats kicked another short punt to set up Willis at midfield, but senior Naeten Mitchell’s second interception of the game gave the ball back to the Wildcats. However, two penalties on one play hindered Temple’s ensuing possession and Willis recovered a Wildcats fumble at Temple’s 21-yard line before a 7-yard touchdown run sliced the Wildkats’ deficit to 34-20 with 4:45 remaining.
Temple was able drain the rest of the clock thanks to several hard rushes by senior running back Deshaun Brundage (27 carries, 168 yards), but the Wildcats’ head coach was far from a happy camper as he addressed his team after the game.
“We’ve won games a whole lot to very little and my message has still always been, ‘The biggest room in the house is the room for improvement,’” Stewart said. “They’re told that all the time, but especially early and especially when you get outscored in the fourth quarter. The stats don’t lie when you give up seven points (in the first three quarters) and then you give up 13 in 4 minutes.
“The whole message was, ‘Look, guys, what do you think about him?’ ‘I love him.’ ‘What do you think about him?’ ‘I love him.’ Well, guess what? They didn’t get to play because y’all wouldn’t finish. I’m not going to put in the 2s in a 34-7 game when (the opponent is) driving.’ My thought process was, ‘We just stopped them. Let’s go finish this drive and now everybody gets to do what they want to do and they deserve to do.’ Everybody deserved to play. But no. We fumble and give it to them on the 21, they score, we go three-and-out, have a terrible punt and they come down and score. It was a calamity of errors and now it’s a 14-point game with 5 minutes left. Now this can turn into something bad. That never should have come to pass like that.”
Enough said on that subject? Well, not quite.
“We didn’t get better as a whole team because we didn’t handle our responsibility until our responsibility was over,” Stewart added. “You don’t get to decide when the game’s over. The clock decides when the game’s over.”
Temple senior right guard Agustin Silva must sit out the first half of the College Station game because he was ejected after a first-half skirmish with a Willis player. Senior Dexter Hewitt replaced returning starter Silva, and he and senior Koran Lumpkins will fill in for Silva during the first two quarters against the Cougars.
Temple’s defense was a force for most of the Willis game, constantly pressuring the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Lagway in and out of the pocket and compiling eight sacks overall, the most that defensive coordinator Dexter Knox can remember. Baylor-committed senior linebacker Taurean York tallied 2½ sacks among his team-high eight tackles, and senior tackle Ka’Morion Carter, senior end Julian White and junior nose tackle Ayden Brown collected 1½ sacks apiece. Lagway ran for a 75-yard touchdown early in the second quarter but didn't throw a touchdown pass after tossing six TDs in the blowout of Rudder.
“Taurean had a good game, Nate had a great game, Kam Carter had a good game and the guys up front held their own,” Knox said. “We’ve got Teryon Williams-Echols filling in for (injured) Zion Moore at weakside linebacker and he played well. We challenged our DBs last week, ‘Willis is going to throw the ball 80 percent of the time, so if you sit back there and watch Lagway throw the football, you’re going to get beat. You’ve got to stick on them.’”
This week, Temple’s defense faces a College Station attack that took a hit right before the season when Duke-committed senior running back Marquise Collins – the reigning 5A state offensive player of the year after rushing for 2,826 yards and 39 touchdowns in 2021 – announced on Aug. 24 that he would undergo season-ending surgery and graduate in December.
Senior first-year starting quarterback Jackson Ingram left during the Lovejoy game because of injury after passing for 99 yards and a touchdown. Since taking over at QB, dual-threat junior Arrington Maiden has passed for 330 yards and three touchdowns on 24-of-40 accuracy while rushing for 34 yards and a TD.
Without Collins to rely on, the Cougars’ running game has gotten good production from two quick, shifty backs in senior Anthony Trevino (158 yards, three TDs) and sophomore Aydan Martinez-Brown (150 yards, two TDs).
College Station has a deep receiving corps with seniors Beau Kortan and Zach Dang, junior Paden Cashion and sophomore Jackson Verdugo. Each of them has at least six catches for 67 yards, paced by Kortan’s eight grabs for 117 yards.
Three seniors lead the Cougars’ offensive line: 6-6, 315-pound tackle Jake Utley, Logan Bradshaw and Noah Sherman.
“What you get with College Station, and we’ve been going against them forever, is they’re going to be coached well, they’re going to be sound, they’re not going to mess up, they’re going to do what they’re supposed to and they’re going to do it as hard as they can,” Knox said. “So we’re just making sure our guys are staying focused and staying the course and continue to play hard. Obviously (Collins) isn’t playing, but that doesn’t take away from what College Station can bring to the table.”
As for the College Station defense, hard-hitting senior safety/outside linebacker Harrison Robinson is the ringleader. He made 20 tackles against Lovejoy and has 27 overall after compiling 138 stops and six sacks last season.
The Cougars’ leading defenders include senior outside linebackers Kolton Griswold (18 tackles) and Chantz Johnson, senior lineman Korbin Johnson, junior linebacker Jaydon Bellows (17 stops), senior cornerback A.J. Tisdell and junior safety Tony Hamilton (15 tackles).
Temple concludes its grueling non-district schedule next Friday at home against 6A No. 9-ranked Arlington Martin (2-0), then the Wildcats begin pursuit of their fourth consecutive 12-6A championship Sept. 23 at Bryan. College Station takes its open date next week before the Cougars begin 11-5A Division I play by hosting Leander on Sept. 23.
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