Wildcats

Vance Willis throws a pass to KD Freeman (2) during a drill at Temple’s first football practice of the season Monday evening.

When the Temple Wildcats begin their 2019 season Aug. 30 at Round Rock Cedar Ridge, they’ll find out how well they can handle the proverbial heat of varsity football competition.

During their first official practice Monday evening in helmets, jerseys and shorts, a reported 141 Temple seniors, juniors and sophomores had to deal with the actual heat: a temperature exceeding 100 degrees when they began at 6 p.m. and a heat index of 101 when they finished in near-darkness at 8:30.

“I mean, you just adapt to it. You’re wearing helmets for the first time since spring ball, so you adjust to that and then forget about it after you start playing ball,” said Temple senior safety and recent Tulsa commitment Damarco Williams, a projected leader on a new-look defense. “Everybody is just getting back into the groove, working on their craft, technique and fundamentals. The focus is on doing your job and assignment.”

As Temple begins to build toward what it hopes is a seventh consecutive playoff berth and an extended postseason run after last year’s first-round exit, fourth-year head coach Scott Stewart likes what he sees from a squad that will mix established performers with youthful-but-talented prospects, including several sophomores.

“I thought we had great energy, just kids flying around. They’re excited to be here,” said Stewart, whose Wildcats will practice the next two evenings before switching to a morning workout Thursday and getting into full pads Saturday. “I hope the learning curve is fast with these guys, because they’re a fun group to coach.

“We always talk all the time about commitment is what your mindset is when the new wears off. But it’s kind of cool to have the new feeling. It comes with a different kind of excitement.”

After quarterbacks T.J. Rumfield and Jared Wiley excelled as single-season starters in 2017 and ’18, respectively, Temple hopes for similar one-year production from senior and likely starting QB Vance Willis, a gifted runner and improving passer.

“We’ve kind of made a living with that. The pattern is there. I’m very excited about Vance,” Stewart said. “He’s grown up a lot. He’s always been an exceptional athlete and has a good mind for the game. His maturity level has been impressive since the end of the season last year. He’s realized it’s his time.”

Willis figures to benefit from proven commodities such as three-year starting linemen Markel Carter and Dakari White, big-play receiver Quentin Johnston and dynamic running back Anthony Jackson.

The Wildcats will hit the road Aug. 23 to scrimmage College Station. After the opener at Cedar Ridge a week later, Temple will begin its home schedule Sept. 6 against Mexican opponent Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon under the new lights at Wildcat Stadium. Temple’s District 12-6A opener is Sept. 13 against Harker Heights at Killeen’s Leo Buckley Stadium.