UNDER PRESSURE: Temple sophomore quarterback Reese Rumfield throws a short pass while being pursued by Austin Westlake senior defensive end Ethan Burke during the Wildcats' 54-13 loss to the top-ranked Chaparrals in Friday night's season opener at Wildcat Stadium, Making his first career start after transferring to Temple in May, Rumfield was 8-of-22 passing for 90 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
Going into Friday night’s season opener against reigning No. 1-ranked Austin Westlake, Temple head coach Scott Stewart was adamant that his Wildcats had to play a clean, smart all-around game to be competitive with the Chaparrals, winners of 24 straight games and two consecutive Class 6A state championships.
His message could be summarized in four words: Make them earn it.
However, as skilled and strong as Westlake’s powerhouse program of head coach Todd Dodge did prove to be, the mistake-prone Wildcats gave the Chaparrals much more help than they could afford to.
Temple’s offense struggled to move the ball consistently against sturdy Westlake, and its defense had several vital breakdowns against Clemson-committed star quarterback Cade Klubnik and a balanced Chaps attack. A disastrous performance in the punting game compounded the Wildcats’ problems, helping Westlake’s well-oiled machine roll to a 54-13 win in front of a large crowd at soggy Wildcat Stadium.
“I mean, Westlake’s good. I don’t know that they’re 41 points better. But sometimes the best lessons learned are the hardest lessons learned. That’s the challenge to (the players), is to be critical of yourself,” Stewart said. “I told them that if they’re not going to show up tomorrow with a workman’s mentality, don’t show up. That’s for real.
“Winning never gets old; losing sucks 100 percent of the time. I’m OK getting beat by a better team. I’m not OK spotting somebody 35 points because we look like we’ve never been coached.”
The reigning 6A Offensive Player of the Year, Klubnik lived up to his impressive reputation. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior quarterback was 15-of-24 passing for 226 yards with three first-half touchdowns and no interceptions. His scoring throws were 35 yards to Jaden Greathouse less than 2 minutes into the game, 31 yards to Keaton Kubecka in the second quarter and 17 yards to Bryce Chambers 2 minutes before halftime. Klubnik also rushed for 51 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter before he exited the game for good.
NO BREATHING ROOM: Temple junior linebacker Taurean York hits Austin Westlake quarterback Cade Klubnik during the No. 1-ranked Chaparrals' season-opening 54-13 win over the Wildcats on Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. Klubnik, a Clemson commitment who helped lead Westlake to the Class 6A Division I state championship last season, threw three first-half touchdown passes and ran for one TD as coach Todd Dodge's Chaps pushed their winning streak to 25 games. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Running behind a hulking offensive line that includes Texas and Indiana commitments, senior Hunter Henault rushed for 107 yards with two 1-yard touchdowns on 26 carries for Westlake, which won the 6A Division II state championship at 15-1 in 2019 and the 6A D-I state title at 14-0 last season. The Chaparrals seek a third straight crown with Dodge, who's won six state titles overall and announced that he will retire at season’s end.
A combination of three Temple punters averaged less than 17 yards on six punts, including a blocked kick that Westlake’s Will Magids returned 45 yards for the Chaps’ final touchdown with 3 minutes remaining in the fourth. The Wildcats also had a high punt snap skid out of the end zone for a third-quarter safety.
“It’s good to find out in Game 1 who the moment is too big for and who it’s not,” Stewart said. “We looked like we’ve never snapped a ball. Our punters were kicking the ball 50 yards in pregame, and I think our average might have been 11 yards. It’s not that we don’t have snappers and it’s not that we don’t have punters.
“I guess the moment got too big, and I’m going to find a way to work on that and get a lot better. We tried to do a little punt scheme that we’ve worked on forever, then we get out here and can’t execute it. So that’s on me, and that’ll be fixed. There will be (competition) at every position.”
Temple senior Danis Bajric kicked a 22-yard field goal in the first quarter and a 31-yarder in the fourth. The Wildcats’ only touchdown came from senior reserve running back Jalen Robinson, who sprinted through the middle for an 80-yard score with 2½ minutes remaining in the game against Westlake backup defenders.
Temple running back Samari Howard, District 12-6A’s Co-Most Valuable Player in 2020, rushed for a game-high, hard-earned 135 yards on 22 carries. The senior workhorse also got playing time at quarterback during the second half.
BREAKING LOOSE: Temple senior running back Samari Howard eludes Austin Westlake senior defensive back Carter Barksdale during the Wildcats' 54-13 loss to the top-ranked Chaparrals in Friday night's season opener at Wildcat Stadium. Howard, Co-MVP of District 12-6A last year, rushed for a game-high 135 yards on 22 carries. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Making his first career start, Temple sophomore quarterback Reese Rumfield completed eight of 22 passes for 90 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions while dealing with constant pressure from Westlake’s aggressive defense, whose highly regarded coordinator is former Mary Hardin-Baylor standout safety Tony Salazar. Rumfield did display good mobility numerous times while escaping defenders in the backfield.
“I think the pressure got to him a little bit in the second half,” Stewart said of Rumfield, who transferred to Temple in May and won a preseason competition for the starting QB position. “I won’t know anything until (watching the film). I want to go look at his mechanics. He didn’t complete near as many balls in the second half. Some of that was probably the situation, but it all boils down to mechanics, feet, technique and reads. I don’t know right now exactly what the breakdown was, but he missed some balls in the second half. We’ll take a good, hard look at that.
“I’m proud of him. It’s not an easy task to come out here as a 15-year-old. He can’t even drive a car yet and he just played the best defense in the state of Texas, so I’m proud of the way he approached it. He’s a grinder, so he’ll come back and he’ll study film.”
Robinson rushed for 106 yards on four carries for Temple, which had 239 yards on the ground and 329 overall. Tr’Darius Taylor made a 42-yard reception and fellow senior Devan Williams had a 32-yard catch for the Wildcats. However, standout junior wide receiver Mikal Harrison-Pilot did not make a reception against Westlake’s stingy defense after he caught 38 balls for 502 yards and seven touchdowns as a first-team all-district sophomore
Stewart saw some positive signs from his inexperienced offensive line, which has only one returning starter in senior tackle Colby Rice. However, the fact that much of Temple’s production occurred after the outcome was decided did temper any enthusiasm.
“If I’m being realistic, and not to be a buzzkill, some of that was against Westlake’s 2s and 3s. I’m not going to sugar-coat anything,” Stewart said. “I don’t think we’re very good up front right now, and I think (Westlake’s) great. We’ll get better. There’s no way but to get better with this.”
With Temple already trailing 7-0 after Greathouse’s physical 35-yard touchdown catch from Klubnik only 1:39 into the game, a sudden, driving rainstorm caused messy playing conditions and made progress difficult for Rumfield and the Wildcats’ offense. Temple gave Westlake excellent field position, leading to Henault’s 1-yard TD rush for a 14-0 Chaparrals lead with 7½ minutes gone.
Temple responded on its ensuing possession, as the speedy Taylor got behind the middle of the secondary to catch Rumfield’s deep pass for a 42-yard gain to Westlake’s 11-yard line. But the Chaps’ defense toughened and the Wildcats settled for Bajric’s 22-yard field goal and a 14-3 game late in the first quarter.
Temple lost a wet-ball fumble on a botched handoff to begin the second quarter, and Westlake make the Wildcats pay as Kubecka exploited a coverage breakdown for an easy 31-yard touchdown reception from Klubnik for a 21-3 advantage.
Charlie Barnett, who repeatedly boomed kickoffs through the end zone for touchbacks, kicked a 38-yard field goal to make it 24-3 with 3 minutes left before halftime. After Temple’s offense lost 5 yards on its next possession, its punter bobbled the ball while moving toward the right side. With three Chaps players closing in, the on-the-run kick went only 10 yards.
Westlake again took full advantage of a Temple blunder, as Klubnik connected with Chambers for a 17-yard touchdown pass that extended the Chaps’ commanding lead to 31-3 with 1:49 left until halftime.
Westlake proceeded to outscore Temple 16-0 in a 5-minute span during the third quarter, getting short touchdown runs from Henault and Klubnik wrapped around the errant snap that sailed well over the punter’s head for a safety.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT: Temple senior reserve running back Jalen Robinson sprints untouched through Austin Westlake's backup defenders for an 80-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter of the Wildcats' 54-13 loss to the Chaparrals in Friday night's season opener at Wildcat Stadium. Robinson rushed for 90 yards overall. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
One more breakdown in the punting game led to the blocked kick and Magids’ touchdown return late in the fourth. Robinson’s well-blocked 80-yard TD dash up the middle on Temple’s ensuing possession at least pushed the Wildcats’ point total into double digits on an otherwise rough opening night.
“What I told them was, ‘Guys, we’re not going to beat each other up. We didn’t play well against a great team, and when you don’t play well and you give away freebies . . . I mean, it looked like a comedy of errors at times out here. So that’s on me,’” Stewart said. “I think it depends on how we handle it. We’re going to try to handle it the right way.
“I trust these guys to come in with a workman’s mentality and be critical of themselves, and we’ll try to improve as much as we can. The biggest jump is usually from Game 1 to Game 2. I don’t know how you get worse, so we’ve got to go up.”
Playing three consecutive home games in non-district action, the Wildcats will battle Magnolia West (1-0) – whose first-year head coach is former Temple offensive coordinator Ben McGehee – at 7:30 p.m. next Friday. The Mustangs beat Brenham 45-21 on Friday. Temple won 28-13 at Magnolia West last season.