- Greg Wille
SPRING FLING: White team edges Blue 16-14 despite Temple newcomer Rumfield's TDs to Taylor, Sullivan
ROOM TO ROAM: Incoming sophomore running back Jervonnie Williams charges for a long gain during the White team's 16-14 win over the Blue squad Thursday evening in Temple's Blue-White spring game at Wildcat Stadium. Rymond Johnson rushed for a 42-yard touchdown and Danis Bajric kicked three field goals for the White team, while sophomore-to-be quarterback Reese Rumfield threw TD passes of 75 yards to receiver Tr'Darius Taylor and 29 yards to running back Tavaris Sullivan for the Blue. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
Only time will tell whether incoming Temple junior standout Mikal Harrison-Pilot will be throwing passes or catching passes during the Wildcats' 2021 football season, which begins in three months at home against two-time reigning Class 6A state champion Austin Westlake.
Other than playing around on the home sideline, Harrison-Pilot wasn't doing either of those things during Temple's annual Blue-White spring game on a warm Thursday evening at Wildcat Stadium, where he sat out for precautionary reasons as he continues to heal from a stress fracture in his foot.
The 6-foot, 185-pound Harrison-Pilot is a dual-threat quarterback who's certainly a viable candidate to become Temple's starting QB this upcoming season. However, he was a first-team All-District 12-6A selection at receiver as a sophomore last year, and there's a distinct possibility that his difference-making talents could lead the Wildcats' coaching staff to keep him in that position.
Out of the four quarterbacks who did play in the Blue-White scrimmage, the guy who's been at Temple High School for the shortest amount of time might have the best shot at making sure that Harrison-Pilot catches a lot more passes than he throws next season.
Only three weeks after he moved to Temple, sophomore-to-be QB Reese Rumfield threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to incoming senior speedster Tr'Darius Taylor and later connected with senior-to-be running back Tavaris Sullivan for a 29-yard TD to provide the Blue team's top offensive highlights.
But it was the White team that emerged with a 16-14 victory in the four-quarter, 1½-hour scrimmage, boosted by three field goals from incoming senior Danis Bajric, a 42-yard touchdown sprint by Rymond Johnson and strong running by Johnson and Jervonnie Williams on the final possession to clinch the win.
With Harrison-Pilot and incoming star senior running back and 12-6A co-MVP Samari Howard watching from the sideline, Temple sixth-year head coach Scott Stewart said the Wildcats intentionally played things close to the proverbial vest as they wrapped up four weeks of spring practice in front of a large crowd in the home stands.
“We stayed base. This is for the community,” said Stewart, whose many former Temple players in attendance included Texas tight end Jared Wiley and Texas Christian wide receiver Quentin Johnston. “We didn't have all of our toys out there. Samari's nursing a rolled ankle – he'll be fine – and Mikal has a couple weeks left with the stress fracture. I think that's part of it. I think our defensive line obviously is a little bit ahead of our offensive line. We've got most of those guys back and they're a year better.”
With the highly recruited Harrison-Pilot suited up in a Blue uniform but restricted to being an observer, four quarterbacks alternated through the Blue-White game: incoming senior Kaleb Hill and three sophomores-to-be: Damarion Willis, Rumfield and 6-5 Luke Law, who transferred in from Salado in March.
The quarterbacks' decision-making and performance as a whole was inconsistent, but Rumfield demonstrated that he might have the potential to challenge Harrison-Pilot for the starting QB position as the summer progresses.
UNDER PRESSURE: Temple incoming sophomore quarterback Reese Rumfield (red jersey) of the Blue team tries to elude a defensive lineman as head coach Scott Stewart and offensive coordinator Josh Sadler (right) observe during the White team's 16-14 win in Thursday evening's Blue-White spring game at Wildcat Stadium. After moving from Midlothian Heritage to Temple three weeks ago, Rumfield threw touchdown passes to Tr'Darius Taylor (75 yards) and Tavaris Sullivan (29 yards). (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
The 6-foot, 173-pound Rumfield moved from Midlothian Heritage to Temple three weeks ago, right after Stewart hired his father, 1994 Belton graduate and former Tigers football and baseball standout Brock Rumfield, to coach defensive backs for the Wildcats after cornerbacks coach Chris VanCleave decided to become Rockdale's cornerbacks coach and head track and field coach.
Although he's been in Temple for only a short amount of time, Reese Rumfield has embraced getting to know his new teammates and diving into the ins and outs of offensive coordinator Josh Sadler's playbook.
“It's a lot of fun. I mean, I just got here and I just want to soak in the offense right now as much as I can. Once I get it down, I'll be so much more comfortable,” said Rumfield, who played junior varsity football for Midlothian Heritage last fall. “I've been here two full weeks. They're throwing me in the fire already.”
Rumfield said that as soon as his father was hired by Temple, he contacted his cousin TJ Rumfield, the prolific passer who as a senior in 2017 quarterbacked the Wildcats to 10 wins and a trip to the 5A Division I Region III final. He now plays baseball for Virginia Tech.
"Right away I called TJ that night, because he knows this offense like the back of his hand," Reese Rumfield said. "I asked him some questions about it and he got me right and got me prepared to come in for the first day."
Sadler said that Temple began its quarterback training program, nicknamed “Q school,” in January, so Law and Rumfield are at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to Harrison-Pilot, Hill and Willis. But with 7-on-7 football and other growth opportunities coming up this summer, the evaluation process will be ongoing and thorough for all of the QBs involved.
“With our quarterback situation, we've got some new faces and they're developing at a rapid pace and doing a real good job,” said Sadler, who had an outstanding single-season starting QB last season with senior Humberto Arizmendi (Iowa Wesleyan). “I'm really excited to see in three months what it looks like. (Tonight) they did handle the pressure well. We knew we were going to get some of that.”
GANG TACKLE: Several defenders from the Blue team combine to tackle a ball carrier from the White squad during the White's 16-14 victory in Temple's spring football game Thursday evening at Wildcat Stadium. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
The fact that Law and Rumfield didn't go through Temple's entire Q school is an obstacle but not one that can't be overcome, according to Sadler.
“They didn't get to go through Q school, and that for us is a big teaching process. That's where the kids learn the whys and the hows,” Sadler said. “We had three kids in Q school. The thing about it is that Q school will extend into summer, so I'm really excited to see their further development. I think 7-on-7 is going to be crucial for us, getting out and throwing the ball more and learning the offense and being able to read defenses. I think we're going to be just fine.”
Harrison-Pilot was considered the front-runner to become Temple's starting quarterback as a sophomore. It wasn't until Arizmendi's sharper performance in a September scrimmage against College Station that the senior earned the starting job, after which Harrison-Pilot shifted to slot receiver and they both helped the 10-2 Wildcats capture the 12-6A championship and their first postseason win as a 6A program before a 56-28 area-round loss to Rockwall-Heath in the Division II playoffs.
“You just can't make those calls right now,” Sadler said about this year's QB competition. “What I can tell you is we're going to put the best 11 athletes for the Temple Wildcats on the field, and that's our No. 1 goal at all times. We don't care about their age or anything else. We'll see how that develops over the summer, and then we'll make that call when we get to the week before the (first) game. It's always going to be quarterback drama.”
A major area of concern entering spring practice was Temple's offensive line, which was strong in 2020 but had only one returning starter, incoming senior tackle Colby Rice, going into 2021. However, Sadler said current projected starters Jose Faz, Jeremiah Mungia, Endrei Sauls and Augustin Silva have steadily made strides through spring ball.
“We've got a long way to go with our offensive line, and we knew that coming into the spring. And we're going to get there,” Sadler said. “There's four brand-new guys up front, and they're coming around. What I did see over the last four weeks is they got better every week, and that's a promising thing moving forward into the summer.”
Rumfield took the field first with the first-unit offense, but the Blue gained only 17 yards before the White offense put together a methodical drive that resulted in a 42-yard field goal by Bajric for a 3-0 lead.
Law got his first opportunity with the White offense late in the first quarter, but his long pass from midfield turned into a juggling interception by Blue defensive back Elgin Ferris at the 16-yard line. However, a Blue running back fumbled on the next play, and senior-to-be linebacker Faylin Lee recovered the ball and easily would have returned it for a touchdown if not for the officials whistling all turnover plays dead immediately.
The White offense then drove to the 1 before a bad snap and multiple backfield pressures pushed the ball back to the 18. Bajric made a 35-yard field goal to extend the lead to 6-0 early in the second quarter.
WELCOME TO TEMPLE: Starting for the Blue team, Temple incoming sophomore quarterback Reese Rumfield threw touchdown passes of 75 yards to Tr'Darius Taylor and 29 yards to Tavaris Sullivan during Temple's Blue-White spring game Thursday evening at Wildcat Stadium. Rumfield, cousin of former Temple QB TJ Rumfield, enrolled at Temple three weeks ago after his father, Belton graduate Brock Rumfield, was hired by Wildcats head coach Scott Stewart as a defensive backs coach. With junior-to-be quarterback/receiver Mikal Harrison-Pilot sitting out the Blue-White scrimmage with a stress fracture in his foot, Rumfield alternated playing time at QB with incoming senior Kaleb Hill and fellow sophomores-to-be Luke Law and Damarion Willis. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
Rumfield and Taylor made their presence felt on the ensuing Blue possession. From the 25, Rumfield fired a long pass over the middle and Taylor beat his defender to make the catch before he pulled away for the 75-yard touchdown to give the Blue a 7-6 edge.
“I lined up and we were like, 'We need it. Let's go get it.' In my head, this is my team right now,” said Taylor, who ran the anchor leg of Temple's 4x100-meter relay team – which included Howard, Harrison-Pilot and graduating senior Carlton Mack – that placed sixth in the 6A state meet earlier this month. “He threw it, and in my eyes I already knew it was a touchdown. I just made sure I secured it and then used my speed.
“Right now, I love that QB. I love all my guys, but that QB is showing something. It's the way he works. He doesn't know all the plays, but he's smart. I'd love to see Mikal back with me at receiver, but also Mikal can throw that thing. So it's like, either way it's good for us.”
Rumfield said that throwing to a speedy target such as Taylor is a comforting feeling.
“That's just the one guy that if you need to trust someone in that situation to go deep, he's going to beat everyone. You can't catch him,” Rumfield said.
The 7-6 score stood until midway through the third quarter. From the Blue 42, Johnson charged off left tackle, turned on the jets and outran everyone for a touchdown to push the White team back in front for good at 13-7. That lead grew to 16-7 late in the third when Bajric, with a helping breeze behind him, kicked a 51-yard field goal. He's succeeding four-year starting kicker Aaron Wagaman, one of Temple's all-time leading scorers.
Halfway through the final quarter, the Blue squad got right back in the game. A 46-yard run pushed the ball to the White 29, then Sullivan ran a wheel route out of the backfield and along the right sideline before catching Rumfield's well-thrown pass near the goal line for a 29-yard touchdown that trimmed the Blue deficit to 16-14 with 4:54 remaining.
“Reese has a very quick release,” Stewart said. “He spins it, it comes out quick and it's a very catchable ball. That comes off his hand naturally.”
Alas, the Blue squad never got another opportunity to possess the ball and perhaps drive for a go-ahead score, because the White team rode its strong running game to drain the clock and seal the win. Starting at the 25, Johnson produced a 15-yard burst and Williams gained 9 yards before Johnson dashed off left tackle for 15. Then with less than two minutes remaining, Johnson broke multiple tackles and dragged the pile for an impressive 12-yard pickup that clinched the White's two-point victory.
Although the White squad excitedly buzzed in front of the Blue sideline to celebrate its narrow win, Taylor said Temple has a cohesive team that carries confidence and optimism into the summer. It's only three months before perennial power Westlake – Chaparrals head coach Todd Dodge watched the Wildcats' spring game from the stands – invades Wildcat Stadium for a season-opening showdown.
“We just all came together as a team. These are my brothers. I don't care how good it went or how bad it went. It's fun and we're brothers,” Taylor said about Temple's spring practice as a whole. “We're all playing with each other and we're all doing this to get better. I love these guys, man.”
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