• Greg Wille

STILL SEARCHING: Temple rallies late, but Magnolia West too strong as 27-14 loss makes Wildcats 0-2

Updated: Sep 5


HE CAN PICK IT: Temple junior defensive back Naeten Mitchell tries to elude Magnolia West receivers Daniel Horn (left) and Colton Adcox after making an interception 1 minute into the game Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. Mitchell's pick set up a 3-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Reese Rumfield to senior Devan Williams, but the Mustangs – coached by former Temple offensive coordinator Ben McGehee – scored the next 27 points and defeated the Wildcats 27-14, dropping Temple to 0-2 with one non-district game left next Friday at home against Hutto. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)




By GREG WILLE

TempleBeltonSports.com

gwille2@hot.rr.com


The Temple Wildcats were plagued by key breakdowns and a lack of execution in nearly every phase of the game last Friday in a season-opening 54-13 loss to top-ranked, reigning Class 6A state champion Austin Westlake.

Right back at Wildcat Stadium one week later against a Magnolia West team coached by former Temple offensive coordinator Ben McGehee, the Wildcats showed improvement in many aspects Friday night in another non-district duel.

They scored the game’s first and last touchdowns on passes from sophomore quarterback Reese Rumfield to seniors Devan Williams and Samari Howard, respectively. Their defense created three turnovers. And unlike against Westlake, they didn’t make any catastrophic mistakes in the punting game.

Alas, the Wildcats needed to do much more than those things to avoid rare back-to-back home defeats and their first 0-2 start since 2011.

After trailing 7-0 with less than 3 minutes gone, Magnolia West combined a potent rushing offense with a sturdy defense to take control by scoring 27 consecutive points from midway through the first quarter through early in the fourth. Temple allowed only six second-half points and produced a spirited fourth-quarter rally as the Wildcats threatened to make it a one-score game, but Howard’s fourth-and-goal run with 7 minutes remaining was unsuccessful and the Mustangs salted away their 27-14 victory.

One week after Temple’s punting woes gave 6A perennial power Westlake great field position all night, 5A Division I Magnolia West (2-0) – powered by hard-charging runners Hunter Bilbo and Kai Aroca-Disdier and quarterback Brock Dalton – compiled touchdown drives that covered 91, 96 and 90 yards and effectively and methodically drained the energy from an overworked Wildcats defense.

Overall, it was another frustrating night for Temple sixth-year head coach Scott Stewart and his Wildcats (0-2), who were limited to 222 yards of total offense and absorbed their third consecutive defeat dating to last year’s 56-28 loss to Rockwall-Heath in the area round of the 6A Division II playoffs.

“I felt we were outmatched a little bit last week (vs. Westlake), and I felt like we took the worst end of it tonight on the defensive line,” said Stewart, whose defense allowed Aroca-Disdier to rush for 154 yards and Bilbo to run for 105 as Magnolia West accumulated 279 yards on the ground. “We’ll go back to the drawing board. If it was easy, everybody would do it. We’re going to continue to fight and see if we can’t find a football team somewhere in this city.”

Howard, District 12-6A’s Co-MVP last year, followed his 135-yard rushing game against Westlake by running for 98 yards on 23 carries against Magnolia West. He also played some at quarterback in the second half and completed a 33-yard pass to senior Tr’Darius Taylor. Temple rushed for 103 yards and passed for 119 as Rumfield went 5-for-13 for 86 yards.


IN THE CLEAR: Temple senior wide receiver Devan Williams makes a 3-yard touchdown catch from sophomore Reese Rumfield as a Magnolia West defender tries to recover during the first quarter of the Wildcats' 27-14 loss to the Mustangs on Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)



Rumfield, the first-year starter who moved to Temple in May, threw his first two touchdown passes – a 3-yard connection with Williams 2½ minutes into the game after junior Naeten Mitchell’s interception, then a 67-yard strike to the streaking Howard with 9:40 remaining in the fourth, trimming the Wildcats’ deficit to 27-14.

However, Rumfield also threw a first-quarter interception to Caylon Dygert that led to Magnolia West’s go-ahead touchdown, and Jackson Blank picked off Rumfield’s deep throw with 3 minutes remaining to essentially clinch the Mustangs’ win as they moved to 2-0 in McGehee’s first season as their head coach. Magnolia West controlled the second half of its season opener to Brenham 45-21.

“Those guys are good,” Stewart said of the Mustangs, who avenged their 28-13 home loss to Temple last year, “and we’re just not consistent right now. We’ve got a sophomore quarterback and a brand-new offensive line. We can’t run the football with a light (defensive) box, so it’s going to be hard-rock mining until we figure this out. That’s what we need to do.”

After junior wide receiver Mikal Harrison-Pilot didn’t make a catch against Westlake, Temple played the four-star recruit almost exclusively on defense at safety against Magnolia West and made 10 tackles.

Temple, which also lost two fumbles on a four-turnover night, will aim to break into the win column when it completes non-district play against Hutto (1-1) at 7:30 p.m. next Friday in its third straight home game. The Hippos bounced back from a season-opening 59-11 loss to College Station by winning 27-14 at Waco on Friday. After battling Hutto, the Wildcats will get their open date before they begin defense of their 12-6A championship at Bryan on Sept. 24.

It was a successful return to Wildcat Stadium for McGehee, who was Temple’s offensive coordinator when the Wildcats advanced to the 5A Division I state championship games in 2014 with head coach Mike Spradlin and in 2016, Stewart’s first season as head coach following his two-year stint as defensive coordinator. After coaching Sweetwater to three playoff berths in four seasons from 2017-20, McGehee took over Magnolia West's program in February, replacing another former Temple assistant, Blake Joseph.

Dalton rushed for touchdowns of 6 and 1 yards in the first quarter as Magnolia West seized the lead for good at 14-7. Elusive ackup running back Aroca-Disdier got loose for a 37-yard touchdown dash midway through the second quarter, and the tough-to-tackle Bilbo added a 4-yard TD rush 2 minutes into the fourth to make it 27-7.

Two sequences that began with Temple’s defense forcing turnovers proved to be especially damaging to the Wildcats’ chances to win the game.

The first happened early in the second quarter. From Magnolia West’s 33-yard line, Temple junior middle linebacker Taurean York – whose 19 tackles included 14 solo stops and three for losses – invaded the backfield and put tremendous pressure on senior quarterback Dalton, stripping the ball away from him at the 18.

As the ball squirted and skidded, York first tried to grab it at the 10 before gaining possession around the 7. However, the reigning 12-6A Defensive MVP lost control of the ball near the 5 and a mad scramble ensued before a Mustangs player finally recovered it at the 4 to give Magnolia West a fresh set of downs, albeit poor field position.

Said Stewart about Temple’s crucial missed opportunity to gain possession deep in Mustangs territory: “Bad discipline. We work all the time at falling on the ball, but we’ve got kids doing stuff they’re not coached to do and usually bad things happen when that goes down.”


IN HOT PURSUIT: Temple junior middle linebacker Taurean York (5) sacks Magnolia West senior quarterback Brock Dalton and strips the ball away from him as senior linebacker Faylin Lee pursues early in the second quarter Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. York recovered the fumble at the Mustangs' 10-yard line but then fumbled before Magnolia West pounced on the ball at the 4. The Mustangs (2-0) then embarked on a 96-yard touchdown drive en route to a 27-14 win over the Wildcats (0-2). York, the reigning District 12-6A Defensive MVP, made 14 solo tackles and 19 stops overall. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)



Magnolia West then converted three third-down plays to penetrate Temple territory before junior Aroca-Disdier outran the defense off right tackle for a 37-yard touchdown that capped a 96-yard march for a 21-7 Mustangs advantage 6:31 before halftime.

The second backbreaking sequence for Temple occurred early in the fourth quarter, right after Rumfield’s perfect pass hit Howard in stride for the 67-yard touchdown that sliced the Wildcats’ deficit to 27-14 with 9:40 remaining and had Temple's sideline and fans in the stands buzzing about a potential comeback.

From the Magnolia West 17 on the first play of its ensuing possession, senior safety Jaden Jackson, senior linebacker Faylin Lee and York converged on Aroca-Disdier and dislodged the ball, with York recovering it at the 14. Trailing by 13 points, Temple had prime field position and plenty of time to work with.

Rumfield hit Williams for 9 yards before Howard’s 2-yard gain on a direct snap gave the Wildcats first-and-goal at the 3. Another Howard 2-yarder pushed it to the 1, but he lost 2 yards on the next play before an incomplete pass set up fourth-and-goal at the 3.

With Howard playing quarterback in the shotgun formation, there was miscommunication in the backfield with senior running back Jalen Robinson and they collided after the snap. Forced to improvise, Howard kept the ball, dashed wide to the left side and made a dive for the pylon, but the officials ruled that he lost control of the ball just before it reached the goal line and that it went out of the end zone – not only a turnover on downs but also a touchback.

“We had a running back go the wrong way. Samari just tried to make something out of nothing. When the guy that’s supposed to be leading the charge goes the wrong way, that (defender) comes free in the backfield, so Samari was just trying to be an athlete and he made a heck of a play,” Stewart said. “He didn’t fumble the ball, so I don’t know what that was about, but that’s really just semantics and field position. Again, we’re trying hard but we’re just not very good.”

Magnolia West then drained more than 4 minutes off the clock before punting back to Temple, and Rumfield’s deep pass to the left side was intercepted by sophomore defender Blank with 2:36 remaining to secure the Mustangs’ win.

The Wildcats did get off to a much better start against Magnolia West, with a big assist from their defense. The Mustangs had the opening possession, but on third-and-1 at their 34, Mitchell – playing cornerback – anticipated Dalton’s throw toward the left sideline and darted in front of receiver Daniel Horn to make the interception before a short return to the 28.

Howard then ripped off runs of 13 and 10 yards before Williams easily caught Rumfield’s fade pass to the right side of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown before Danis Bajric’s extra point gave Temple a 7-0 lead with 2:34 gone.

A penalty on the ensuing kickoff forced Magnolia West to start at its 9, but Bilbo got loose for a 31-yard gain to spark a 12-play, 91-yard drive that ended with Dalton’s 6-yard touchdown run on a dive inside the right pylon for a 7-7 deadlock with 4:48 left in the opening period.

Rumfield didn’t throw an interception in his debut against Westlake’s fierce defense, but on Temple’s next possession his short pass went directly into the hands of linebacker Dygert, who picked it off and returned it to the Wildcats 34. Dalton’s 7-yard completion to Sam Mattingly on fourth-and-6 kept the Mustangs’ drive alive, and they eventually reached the 1 before Dalton pushed into the end zone to give Magnolia West the lead for good at 14-7 with 13 seconds left in the first.

After Temple missed its golden opportunity to recover Dalton’s York-caused fumble early in the second, the Mustangs converted three third-down situations to reach the Wildcats 37 before their offensive line created a big crease on the right side for Aroca-Disdier, who galloped in for the 37-yard touchdown and a 21-7 advantage 6:31 before halftime.

Defense dominated during a scoreless third quarter, with a Bajric punt pinning Magnolia West at its 10 with 5:10 left in that period. But the Mustangs, benefiting from strong line play, put together a methodical drive that featured the reliable rushing of Bilbo and Aroca-Disdier.

They reached the Temple 14 by quarter’s end, then Bilbo gained 2 yards on fourth-and-2 from the 6 before he hesitated and cut through the defense for a 4-yard touchdown. The 17-play, 90-yard drive took 7:13 off the clock and gave Magnolia West a commanding 27-7 lead with 9:57 remaining, though its extra-point attempt missed under the crossbar.

“It’s just consistency. We’re getting our butts kicked on the offensive and defensive lines right now,” Stewart said. “We need to be able to line up in our base defense and stop people. We didn’t do it tonight and we didn’t do it last week, so we’ve got to look at personnel. We’re paper-thin (on depth), so we’ve got who we got. We’ll try to come up with something.”


TIME AND SPACE: Temple sophomore quarterback Reese Rumfield gets good protection from his offensive linemen as he releases a deep pass that senior running back Samari Howard caught in stride en route to a 67-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter against Magnolia West on Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. Rumfield threw two TD passes and two interceptions during Temple's 27-14 loss to the Mustangs. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)



Desperate for a spark, the Wildcats made a furious charge to get back into contention. On their next play, Howard ran past the defense down the right seam and Rumfield’s long pass hit him in stride for a 67-yard touchdown and a 27-14 game with 9:40 left.

Stellar defensive pursuit on Magnolia West’s next snap forced the Aroca-Disdier fumble and York’s recovery at the Mustangs 14, giving resurgent Temple even more hope. However, Howard came up just short of the end zone on his fourth-and-goal run on the busted play at the 7-minute mark, then Blank’s interception of Rumfield’s deep pass with 2:36 remaining secured Magnolia West's win.

“I was proud of our guys. I’m always proud of our guys,” Stewart said. “I just told them there’s nothing they can do on a football field to make me love them any more, and there’s nothing they can do on a football field to make me love them any less. We’re just not very good at what we’re trying to do right now.

“Momma said there’d be days like this, and we’re in days like this. There’s only one way out. We’re going to have to go to work and give everything we can."

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