• Greg Wille

SECOND-HALF SURGE: Harrison-Pilot TDs from Rumfield, improved defense power Temple past Weiss, 32-19

Updated: Oct 4


GAME-CHANGING PLAY: Temple senior Naeten Mitchell (4) blocks a first-quarter punt by Pflugerville Weiss' Oscar Jaramillo before Mitchell recovered the ball for a touchdown during the Wildcats' 32-19 win over the Wolves in Friday night's District 12-6A duel at Wildcat Stadium. Temple (4-2, 2-0) overcame a 13-10 halftime deficit and got two long touchdown passes from junior Reese Rumfield to senior Mikal Harrison-Pilot as the Wildcats earned their 17th consecutive 12-6A victory. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)





By GREG WILLE

TempleBeltonSports.com

gwille2@hot.rr.com


Temple knew that first-time opponent Pflugerville Weiss was fully capable of giving the Wildcats a difficult time in their District 12-6A home opener Friday night at Wildcat Stadium.

The fact that Temple’s offense didn’t score a touchdown in the first half supported that belief.

Of course, it’s hard for a team to score when it hardly has possession of the football. The Wildcats’ offense didn’t take its first snap until 10 minutes into the game and got off only 18 first-half plays, struggling to find a running game, rhythm and success.

But even a talented Weiss team couldn’t keep three-time defending 12-6A champion Temple down forever. The Wildcats’ big-play connection of junior quarterback Reese Rumfield and senior wide receiver Mikal Harrison-Pilot made sure of that.

Temple trailed 13-10 at halftime, but Harrison-Pilot exploded for an 81-yard touchdown reception from Rumfield a minute into the third quarter to give the Wildcats the lead for good, they hooked up for a 37-yard score 6 minutes later and Temple’s active defense allowed only six second-half points as the resilient Wildcats overtook the Wolves to earn a 32-19 victory.

“(The key was) just coming out faster. I mean, we always come out slow in the first half,” said Harrison-Pilot, who made his fourth and fifth touchdown catches this season to help Temple capture its 17th consecutive 12-6A win dating to 2019. “Coming out in the second half, we were just throwing shots and taking shots and getting the ball in our playmakers’ hands. That’s what we did and we came out with the W.”

Temple head coach Scott Stewart wasn’t surprised by the game-changing plays from the versatile Harrison-Pilot (four receptions, 130 yards), the uncommitted four-star national recruit who’s in his fourth season as a varsity starter.

“Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games, and I’m just so proud of that kid. That’s a lot of pressure for a teenager to handle, and Mikal handles it with grace and dignity,” Stewart said. “He comes out and tries to be the best version of himself, and that’s all you can ever ask. He’s good, too. I’m glad he’s a Wildcat.”

Rumfield (10-of-17 passing, 210 yards) rushed for a 1-yard touchdown, his third score of the season, with 17 seconds remaining to seal the win.

Senior Naeten Mitchell produced Temple’s biggest highlight in the first half. Five minutes into the game the New Mexico State commitment blocked a punt by Weiss’ Oscar Jaramillo in the end zone and recovered the ball for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

However, the Wildcats allowed the next two touchdowns in the second quarter on Jax Brown passes of 31 yards to Micah Gifford and 27 yards to Jerin Brown as the Wolves built a 13-10 halftime lead.

Along with Rumfield's two scoring strikes to Harrison-Pilot and feisty, improved defensive play in the second half, Temple’s running game found its groove with 115 yards on 15 carries after the Wildcats rushed eight times for 1 yard in the first two periods.

“Well, no credit goes to the speech (at halftime). I speak what’s on my heart and don’t apologize for that. I think everybody knows you get what you get. I expect the very best, and when I don’t get it, I challenge them,” Stewart said. “And so 100 percent (of the credit goes) to our coaches and the players for good schematic adjustments, and I thought the kids played a lot harder.

“Again, we ran the ball in the second half. It blows my mind that we can’t just walk out here and run the ball because we want to. But that’s learning lessons, and when you play a good football team like that and you come away with a win . . . I’m trying to learn how to celebrate all victories.”

Temple played without sophomore standout wide receiver Christian Tutson, who had an undisclosed injury. Tutson made six touchdown catches and scored eight TDs overall in the Wildcats' previous four games.

After allowing a combined 98 points in losses to state-ranked College Station and Arlington Martin to end non-district play, Temple (4-2) has responded by beating Bryan and Weiss (2-4, 0-2) – allowing 19 points in each game – to begin its six-game 12-6A slate. The Wildcats seek a 3-0 start when they travel to nemesis Waco Midway (1-5, 1-1) next Friday night. The Panthers lost 24-13 at 12-6A co-leader Harker Heights (5-1, 2-0) on Friday in Killeen.

A major reason why Temple’s offense went the first 10 minutes without touching the ball was an extremely strange play that involved an interception and two fumbles by the Wildcat defense.

Weiss had the game’s first possession and quickly advanced to Temple’s 40-yard line before sophomore quarterback Brown’s short pass to the left side was intercepted by senior linebacker Jaylon Jackson near midfield and returned deep into Wolves territory.

Speedy receiver Gifford chased down Jackson and caused him to fumble. Temple’s Mitchell then scooped the ball up but subsequently lost control of it, and offensive lineman Brayden Morris pounced on it at the Weiss 8, giving the Wolves a fresh set of downs – albeit much worse field position – with 4 minutes gone.


ALL WRAPPED UP: Temple senior defensive tackle Ka'Morion Carter sacks Pflugerville Weiss sophomore quarterback Jax Brown inside the 5-yard line during the Wildcats' 32-19 victory against the Wolves in Friday night's District 12-6A game at Wildcat Stadium. Carter and Temple allowed only six second-half points after Weiss led 13-10 at halftime. Brown threw two second-quarter touchdown passes but left the game with an apparent leg injury early in the fourth. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)



After Temple senior tackle Ka’Morion Carter sacked Brown for a 10-yard loss to the 2, Jaramillo stood at the back of the end zone and the instinctive Mitchell – who leads Temple with three interceptions – crashed through the Wolves’ protection scheme and blocked his punt. The ball caromed only a few yards away and Mitchell easily fell on it for the touchdown. The first of Marcos Garcia’s three extra points gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead 5 minutes into the game.

The only negative for Temple was that its defense had to return to the field and its offense had to remain on the sideline as Weiss got the ball right back. By the time the Wolves punted it back to Temple, only 1:56 remained in the first quarter.

The Wildcats' well-rested offense recorded one first down before punting, and 3 minutes into the second quarter Rumfield fumbled the ball on a busted handoff and Damare Green recovered for Weiss on the Wolves’ 41.

Weiss made Temple pay for that miscue, moving to the Wildcats’ 31 before the Baylor-committed Gifford jumped high to catch Brown’s pass on a slant route and raced through an opening for the 31-yard touchdown and a 7-7 deadlock 8:11 before halftime.

The Wolves forced a three-and-out on Temple’s next possession, then seized their first lead. On fourth-and-5 from the Wildcat 27, Jerin Brown beat tight coverage down the left sideline and caught Jax Brown’s well-placed pass near the pylon for a touchdown with 4:09 left. The Weiss advantage remained 13-7 after a high snap on the extra-point try led holder Jax Brown to throw the ball away to the sideline.

Temple then chipped away at its first deficit of the evening, with Rumfield throwing to Steve Jackson for 10 yards on tshird-and-10 and Deshaun Brundage for a 31-yard gain to the 19. After receiver Jeremiah Lennon couldn’t catch Rumfield’s well-thrown pass on the right side of the end zone, Garcia made a 28-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining to trim the Weiss halftime lead to 13-10.

Temple’s offense had another botched handoff between Rumfield and Steve Jackson on its first snap of the second half, but Rumfield recovered it on his 19.

The Wildcats quickly shook off that play. Rumfield rolled out to his right and Harrison-Pilot was covered well by two-way standout Gifford on the right side, but Harrison-Pilot made the catch near midfield and then sprinted down Temple’s sideline for a go-ahead 81-yard touchdown 54 seconds into the third period.

Damarion Willis then took the shotgun snap out of a swinging-gate formation and the nimble junior crashed straight ahead for the 2-point conversion, his second such score in two weeks, to give the Wildcats an 18-13 advantage.

The rugged rushing of Rice-committed senior back Daelen Alexander helped Weiss advance to Temple’s 38 on its ensuing possession, but Jax Brown’s fourth-and-5 pass overshot Jerin Brown down the left seam to give the Wildcat defense a key turnover on downs.

“We’re going against a bunch of Power 5-caliber athletes. The only way I know how to handle it is don’t ever run from a cheetah. Run right at a cheetah. He might not jump out of your way, but he’s going to be more likely to jump out of your way,” Stewart said about Temple’s approach on defense. “We tried to get more in attack mode, and we tried to lighten the box and dared them to run the ball. I thought we held up pretty well by and large.

"I’m just very proud of those guys. We didn’t necessarily control the line of scrimmage, but it’s kind of a bend but don’t break. They did a good job executing.”


DYNAMIC PLAYMAKER: Temple senior wide receiver Mikal Harrison-Pilot moves past diving Pflugerville Weiss defender Micah Gifford to score a touchdown on a 37-yard pass from junior quarterback Reese Rumfield in the third quarter of the Wildcats' 32-19 victory Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. Rumfield and Harrison-Pilot connected for an 81-yard TD one minute into the third, giving Temple the lead for good. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)



Brundage caught a 13-yard pass from Harrison-Pilot and rushed for 12 on the next play to reach the Weiss 37. Rumfield took a low snap and his protection gave him time to deliver an on-target strike to Harrison-Pilot, who came from right to left on a post route. He beat the coverage of a diving Gifford to catch it at the 10 before jogging in for his second touchdown in 6 minutes, extending the Wildcats’ lead to 25-13 midway through the third.

“We’ve been together a year plus going back to last year,” the 6-foot, 196-pound Harrison-Pilot said about his connection with Rumfield, a first-team all-district quarterback as a sophomore who's averaging a staggering 48.2 yards on his 13 touchdown passes this season. “I knew they were probably going to double-team me, so I had to find some way to get open and that’s what we did tonight.”

Weiss responded with a stellar drive to keep itself in contention. On third-and-15 from the Wildcat 39, Gifford caught Jax Brown’s crossing pass in heavy traffic and dragged the pile to the 3 for a 36-yard gain. Alexander took a direct snap on third-and-goal from the 1 and scored to cut the Wolves’ deficit to 25-19 late in the third. Weiss went for the 2-point conversion, but Temple senior end Julian White deflected Jax Brown’s pass to preserve the six-point spread.

“I think Weiss got three (touchdowns) in the air is how they scored – they set one up down here (on Gifford’s 36-yard reception) – and that’s going to happen,” Stewart said. “That kid’s going to Baylor for a reason.”

The Wolves regained possession near midfield with 11 minutes remaining and had designs on reclaiming the lead, but Temple’s defense stiffened when it needed to. On third-and-10 from the Wildcat 40, the pocket collapsed around Jax Brown and senior lineman Ayden Malsbary sacked him for an 8-yard loss.

Brown remained on the turf for several minutes and had to be helped off the field, unable to put any weight on one of his legs. The skilled sophomore had alternated at quarterback with senior Tate Reiland in Weiss’ first five games for veteran head coach Steve Van Meter, but Reiland was injured against Harker Heights last week and didn’t suit up against Temple. Brown did not return to the game after being injured.

The Wildcats then used effective runs by Harrison-Pilot, Brundage and Steve Jackson and Harrison-Pilot’s 17-yard pass to Landon Halvorson to march from their 20 to the Weiss 19, but a holding penalty pushed them back out of field goal range.

On fourth-and-13 from the 29, a Wolves defender appeared to make contact with Mitchell too early as Mitchell tried to catch Rumfield’s pass in the end zone, but neither official in the area threw a flag for pass interference and Weiss took over on downs.

Alexander replaced the injured Brown at quarterback with 4:40 remaining and Carter dropped him for a 3-yard loss, leading to a Weiss punt.

“We’re resilient. We can show different formations. We came out in a 3-3 stack, a 4-2-5 . . . you name it, we probably played it tonight,” said Temple senior linebacker and leading tackler Taurean York, a Baylor commitment. “I think we gave them a lot of different looks, and that’s hard on an offense. (We were) playing mind games and just playing to our strengths.”

Temple’s offense had a prime opportunity to evaporate the clock and seal the win with a strong drive, and that’s exactly what the Wildcats did as their linemen took control.


ONE FINAL PUSH: Temple junior quarterback Reese Rumfield, aided by a push from senior Taurean York, surges through Pflugerville Weiss defenders and across the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown run with 17 seconds remaining in the Wildcats' 32-19 victory Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. It was the third rushing TD this season for Rumfield, who threw scoring passes of 81 and 37 yards to senior Mikal Harrison-Pilot. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)



Brundage barreled for a 15-yard gain, Rymond Johnson raced off left tackle for 20 yards to the Weiss 28 and Brundage blasted to the right side for 23 yards to the 5 with less than 2 minutes remaining. York’s 4-yard reception moved the ball inside the 1, then on third-and-goal York pushed Rumfield from behind as the QB surged straight ahead for a 1-yard touchdown and a 32-19 lead with 17 seconds left, securing Temple’s 17th straight district victory.

“I’m so proud of those guys,” Stewart said about his offense’s ability to crank up its running attack at an important time. “They came out and took the challenge. I’m not going to say we had our way, but I we ran the ball effectively and ran the offense effectively.”

Temple’s next challenge comes next Friday at Midway, which is 6-0 against the Wildcats in a series that dates to 2012. The teams’ last matchup came in 2019, a 52-28 home win for the Panthers that remains Temple’s only district defeat in the last four seasons. Harrison-Pilot and York were freshman starters on defense in that game, and they certainly haven’t forgotten it.

“That’s a revenge game for me. My freshman year was the last time we played Midway, and it was a bad game,” Harrison-Pilot said. “This year I want to get revenge, so I’m going to come with everything I’ve got and hopefully come out with a W.”

Said York, the two-time 12-6A Defensive MVP: “No doubt. When we played Midway in middle school, I'd say the combined score was probably like 300-6. Those guys didn’t score a lot on us. But also, those guys are 6-5 and 300 pounds now. They’re very big, so we’re not taking them lightly because of what we did when we were 12 and 13 years old. But these are also the same kids we played in middle school, so we know how they work and how they react to tough times. So if we go out there and play our brand of football, I think we’re going to be hard to beat.”

As for Stewart, who has an 0-4 record against Midway, he never admits to knowing the identity of Temple’s next opponent until the Wildcats’ current game has concluded. With nemesis Midway now the next foe, he insisted that the Wildcats’ approach will not change.

“I’ll take a look at them tomorrow. Whoever we’ve got next week is who we’ve got next week. This is a really, really good district and there ain’t no off weeks, so we’ve got to be better tomorrow than we were today,” Stewart said. “And if we do that enough days in a row, there may be some different conversations down the road. But right now, I’m just worried about getting up here tomorrow and getting better at what we did tonight, and we’ll worry about the rest of it when it comes.”

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