REALITY CHECK: Temple has work to do before season opener after College Station controls scrimmage
OFF TO THE RACES: Temple senior running back Samari Howard beats a College Station defender to catch sophomore quarterback Reese Rumfield's pass en route to a 71-yard touchdown during Thursday evening's scrimmage at Cougar Field. It was one of two TD tosses for Rumfield, who completed a 42-yard score to junior Mikal Harrison-Pilot but also threw two interceptions. Temple begins its regular season next Friday night at Wildcat Stadium against Austin Westlake, winner of two straight Class 6A state championships. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
COLLEGE STATION – When Thursday evening’s football scrimmage at Cougar Field concluded, the scoreboard read College Station 35, Temple 14.
The score itself in the teams’ two quarters of timed action didn’t overly bother Wildcats sixth-year head coach Scott Stewart, who knew full well going into it that competing against a talented, explosive and well-coached Cougars team had the potential to giver his squad some difficulty.
From Stewart’s perspective, the most important thing was that Temple’s players and coaches learned exactly what they need to focus on improving before two-time reigning Class 6A state champion Austin Westlake invades Wildcat Stadium for next Friday night’s season opener.
“To me, in a scrimmage I know the scoreboard’s on, but we were subbing people in and out. I don’t think that’s a true (indicator),” Stewart said. “But I also will be the first one to say there is a lot of work that needs to be done. And that’s why you scrimmage people of this caliber, is because they’re going to show you exactly where you’re deficient.
“To me, a scrimmage is finding out what you are, who you are and where you are,” he added. “So we’ve got a lot of questions to answer on what we are, who we are and where we are and how the kids respond to that. I don’t know if the Green Bay Packers can beat Westlake, but College Station is going to give you as good a look as anybody in the state, because they’re going to be good early, they’re very well-coached and they don’t screw up assignments.”
In a matchup of perennial playoff qualifiers who compiled 10-2 records last season, Class 5A Division I College Station scored five touchdowns apiece in the scrimmage’s controlled portion of 12-play series and then the two timed quarters.
A week before College Station’s Thursday night season opener against Hutto in Pflugerville, veteran head coach Steve Huff said the scrimmage against familiar opponent Temple was vital for the development of his Cougars.
“I think the main thing we needed to get from this was to see that speed, to see game speed and get some conditioning in game situations and that intensity,” said Huff, who’s guided College Station to seven straight playoff berths, highlighted by the 5A Division II state championship in 2017. “You look at the heat and you’re trying to get kids in shape. We left most of our kids in and Scott did the same thing, too, trying to get our kids to where they’re playing close to three quarters.”
Temple standouts such as senior running back and reigning District 12-6A Co-MVP Samari Howard and junior linebacker and 12-6A Defensive MVP Taurean York played deep into the scrimmage on a hot, humid night, whereas junior wide receiver Mikal Harrison-Pilot caught one touchdown pass but had a lighter overall workload.
Boosted by accurate senior quarterback Jett Huff and a bevy of skilled backs and receivers, the fast-paced, multiple-look Cougars produced nine offensive TDs – five passes and four runs – that averaged 47 yards. College Station’s defense added a score late in the first timed quarter when A.J. Tisdell intercepted a pass by Temple sophomore quarterback Reese Rumfield and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown.
DENIED: College Station defensive back A.J. Tisdell (left) reaches in front of Temple senior wide receiver Tr'Darius Taylor to knock away a pass during Thursday's scrimmage at Cougar Field. Tisdell also made an interception and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown. (Photo by Michael Miller, The Bryan-College Station Eagle/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
College Station scored two touchdowns on its first five snaps in the first timed quarter. Huff, the coach's son, threw to Deonte Blue for a 75-yard catch-and-run TD. Temple responded as Howard got open down the middle and hauled in Rumfield's pass en route to the 71-yard score, but the Cougars came right back as running back Marquise Collins tore through the Wildcats' defense for a 56-yard TD sprint that gave College Station the lead to stay at 14-7.
“We have to drop our egos and have some hard conversations and be critical of ourselves,” Stewart said.
Said senior wide receiver Devan Williams, who caught several Rumfield passes, about Temple’s scrimmage performance: “I think it just helped us realize what we need to fix and what we can do in the future. We saw a lot of good things and there were a lot of bad things as well. But besides those bad things, we’re just going to focus on what we need to fix, what we can do better and go from there.”
Temple was limited to three touchdowns on offense and four overall. In the controlled portion, Harrison-Pilot caught a 42-yard TD pass from Rumfield down the left sideline and sophomore reserve QB Damarion Willis rushed straight ahead for a 7-yard score.
The Wildcats’ lone offensive TD in the timed segment came when Rumfield connected with Howard for a 71-yard catch-and-run score. Defense capped the scoring for Temple in the final quarter, as senior tackle Tommy Torres swarmed Huff and dislodged the ball from him before senior end Dion Saunders grabbed the fumble and raced 53 yards for the touchdown return.
Playing for Temple’s second-unit defense during the controlled portion, senior Frankquan Sauls provided a highlight when the burly tackle made an athletic, sprawling interception on a screen pass. In the first timed quarter, Wildcats junior cornerback Naeten Mitchell appeared to have been beaten on a pass play but made a late recovery and raked the ball out of the hands of College Station receiver Dalton Carnes, who earlier caught Huff touchdown passes of 53 and 68 yards.
TEAMING UP: Temple junior linebacker Taurean York (top) and a defensive teammate tackle a College Station ball carrier during the teams' scrimmage Thursday evening at Cougar Field. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Rumfield, who in May transferred from Midlothian Heritage to Temple, entered the scrimmage as the frontrunner to become the Wildcats’ starting quarterback in a competition that also includes senior Kaleb Hill and sophomores Willis and Luke Law.
Operating the first-unit offense, Rumfield demonstrated his passing skill on the long touchdown strikes to Harrison-Pilot and Howard to go along with several connections with Williams. However, he also exhibited his relative lack of varsity experience while throwing two interceptions – one on an underthrown pass at midfield on the next play after Harrison-Pilot’s TD, and the other one the Cougars’ pick-six.
“He played like a sophomore, and what I mean by that is I think you saw what we see with his skill set and his talent,” Stewart said of Rumfield. “The sophomore piece comes in where sometimes young guys try to win it on every throw. You’ve heard me say it over the years: sometimes you’ve got to know when to hit the lady in the front row with the nachos.
“Sometimes he sees it late and doesn’t get his feet squared away. That’s just technique. Throwing that wide ball to the field on a run-pass option (on College Station’s interceptions return for a touchdown), that’s not the window we want. It was probably there when he turned it loose, but playing 6A at the varsity level is a little different from playing 5A at the freshman level. Those windows are very small.”
CLEAN POCKET: Temple sophomore quarterback Reese Rumfield fires a pass as teammates block College Station defenders during Thursday evening's scrimmage at Cougar Field. Rumfield, contending for the starting QB position, threw touchdown passes of 42 yards to junior Mikal Harrison-Pilot and 71 yards to senior Samari Howard, but one of the two interceptions he threw was returned 37 yards for a TD. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Williams, who moved back to Temple after spending his junior year at Wichita Falls City View, said he’s confident in Rumfield’s ability to quarterback the Wildcats.
“I love Reese. He’s young, so he still has a lot of room to improve,” Williams said. “But from what I’ve seen and what he can do, I’ve got a lot of trust in him and faith in him to move us down the field.”
Despite the up-and-down performance in the scrimmage, Stewart believes that he and his staff have seen enough proficiency and potential from Rumfield to feel good about him beginning the season as Temple’s starting quarterback. The last non-senior to begin a season as the Wildcats’ starting QB was Chad President in 2013.
“I don’t see a world where Reese is not our starting quarterback,” Stewart said. “He’s probably separated himself, but we’re not going to completely close the door. The concept is that even if you name a starter at that position, you still want competition.”