- Greg Wille
TEMPLE SPRING FLING: Wildcats to complete productive workouts today with annual Blue-White scrimmage
SPRING FORWARD: Senior-to-be wide receiver/quarterback/safety Mikal Harrison-Pilot and the Temple Wildcats will play their annual Blue-White spring game at 5 p.m. today at Wildcat Stadium. The four-star recruit and three-year varsity starter has helped Temple record back-to-back District 12-6A championships with 7-0 records. The 2022 season opener for head coach Scott Stewart's Wildcats is on Saturday, Aug. 27 against McKinney at McKinney ISD Stadium. (File photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
The Temple Wildcats have worked on so many things and made so much progress during their four weeks of spring football practice that playing a game to conclude that stretch isn’t really necessary.
But the Blue-White spring game is an annual rite for Temple’s tradition-rich program, and it will give head coach Scott Stewart’s Wildcats an opportunity to compete and their fans a chance to watch some live action 3½ months before the actual games begin.
Today’s Blue-White scrimmage will begin at approximately 5 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium and likely will go for two hours. Asked what his biggest goal is for the Blue-White get-together on Bob McQueen Field, Stewart had an immediate response.
“Get out healthy. I mean, this is Day 18 (of spring practice) for us, so it’s time for it to be done,” said Stewart, who’s 57-19 with six playoff appearances in six seasons as Temple’s head coach. “I’ve tried to be very transparent with the kids about the struggles they’re going to face. The third week of spring ball has been and always will be a grind. You get done with that second week and into that third week, it’s rinse and repeat.
“It’s time. And that’s why we do a little draft (for the Blue-White scrimmage). Some years we do (starting) offense vs. (first-string) defense. Well, crap, they’ve been doing that (throughout spring practice). The kids are excited about it and there’s been a little more trash-talking and fire going with it.”
Coming off a 9-3 season that featured its second consecutive 7-0 record in District 12-6A, Temple has 136 incoming seniors, juniors and sophomores listed on its Blue-White rosters, which have been selected to make them as evenly matched as possible.
Special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach Robby Case is head coach of the Blue team, with offensive coordinator Josh Sadler serving as director of operations. Co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Chris Pilot is head of the White squad, whose director of operations is defensive coordinator Dexter Knox.
“There’s a bunch of really good players in the 2025 class, the current freshmen who are fixing to be sophomores,” Stewart said.
The Wildcats will start warming up around 4:50 and go through a punt block circuit and individual drills before the Blue-White scrimmage begins around 5. It will employ a four-quarter format using mostly a running clock, although the clock will stop after scoring plays and changes of possession.
“I want the last 4 minutes of each half to be a standard game clock so that if there’s a situation to work, we can work it, like if one group’s up by seven we can work a 4-minute offense (for the other group),” said Stewart, whose team has had a weekly scrimmage. “That’s what we do every week anyway, but this is two teams we drafted and it’ll be a little more fun. It won’t just be offense vs. defense. We literally drafted two different teams.”
The Blue roster is highlighted by several returning starters: quarterback Reese Rumfield, offensive linemen Endrei Sauls and Agustin Silva, tight end/fullback Landon Halvorson, defensive tackle and 12-6A Defensive Newcomer of the Year Ayden Brown, defensive end Jaylon Jackson and safety/linebacker Zion Moore.
Also playing for the Blue are incoming sophomore QB Kade Stewart – son of Temple’s coach – and two players who have moved in after competing for nearby schools during the 2021 season: defensive back Steve Jackson (Troy) and wide receiver Pharrell Hemphill (Cameron Yoe). Jackson’s younger brother is Lezlie Jackson, an incoming sophomore defensive back who played varsity baseball for Temple as a freshman.
Headlining the White team roster are two incoming fourth-year varsity starters in Baylor-committed linebacker and two-time 12-6A Defensive MVP Taurean York and wide receiver/quarterback/safety Mikal Harrison-Pilot, a four-star national recruit. Other returning starters include safety Naeten Mitchell and offensive lineman Jeremiah Mungia.
Additional players to watch for the White squad are junior-to-be quarterback Luke Law, incoming senior running back Deshaun Brundage, who moved to Temple after last football season, junior-be-safety Damarion Willis and incoming senior defensive lineman Kam Carter.
Temple is searching for production at running back with the graduation of Army-West Point-bound Samari Howard, the explosive and durable three-year standout who became the Wildcats’ all-time leader in touchdowns and total points scored.
Stewart said he’s encouraged by the potential of running backs Jer’Vonnie Williams, Brundage and Adrian Scott. Temple’s coach added that the staff is giving York some looks at running back and taking a look at the versatile Mitchell at slot receiver in an effort to give the Wildcats more playmaking options.
“I am not afraid to go both ways, especially with kids who will help us. I know that’s probably not as common or popular in 6A, but I don’t care when the game’s on the line,” said Stewart, whose team will open its 2022 season against McKinney on Aug. 27 in a Saturday afternoon matchup at McKinney ISD Stadium. The Wildcats’ home opener is Sept. 2 against Willis at Wildcat Stadium.
Another player who’s making a strong case for major playing time next season is incoming sophomore safety O’Ryan Peoples, younger brother of O’Tarian Peoples, who was a senior safety in 2021.
“O’Ryan is special, man. He’s one of the better athletes out there. He’s got great instinct and he’s got great anticipatory reflex,” Stewart said. “He is not afraid of physical contact. He knows how to play the game. He ran about a 10.9 (100-meter dash) in track, which ain’t bad for a 15-year-old kid.
“He can do some stuff with the football in his hands, but it’s hard to find that anticipatory reflex naturally. You can work on it, but some kids have just got it, and by God he’s got it. He has baited the quarterbacks into more RPO (run/pass options) picks, because he sits there, sits there, sits there and he knows what they’re going to do, and then he jumps it. It’s pure instinct.”
Current sophomore Rumfield didn’t move to Temple until last May, after his father, Brock Rumfield, was hired to join the Wildcats’ coaching staff. He learned the offense quickly during spring practice, played well in the Blue-White game and eventually earned the starting QB position with a strong summer camp.
Starting all 12 games, Rumfield received first-team all-district recognition after passing for 1,831 yards and 24 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Stewart commended Rumfield’s quick release and footwork.
Also competing for time at QB is the 6-foot-6, strong-armed Law, who quarterbacked Temple’s top junior varsity team to a district championship and then played well for the Wildcats’ varsity basketball squad. Stewart said Law has been slowed by a back ailment during spring practice.
The left-handed Kade Stewart also is part of the competition after quarterbacking Temple’s freshman team to a 12-6A crown.
“Right now, I would say that Reese probably has the upper hand. Luke’s been nursing that back injury, so he hasn’t been there as much,” said Stewart, who hasn’t hesitated at all to insert the versatile, mobile Harrison-Pilot at quarterback the last two seasons when Temple’s offense needed a spark. “Kade had to roll with the 2s the other day and threw a couple of touchdown passes, and in our last team scrimmage he orchestrated the only drive of the day that resulted in a touchdown. Some of that was Jer’Vonnie and other things, but I’m very proud of him. He’s doing a good job and I want to see where he fits.”
Stewart placed a large emphasis on strength training in the weight room following Temple’s second straight area-round playoff loss to nemesis Rockwall-Heath, 45-33 last November in Burleson.
“I believe the weight room builds strength, toughness, character and stick-to-itiveness,” he said.
The Wildcats have done what their coach wanted them to do throughout the offseason and four weeks of spring practices. Entering the Blue-White scrimmage, there’s only one more thing he wants his players to do.
Said Stewart: “I just want these kids to go out there tonight and have fun.”
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