It was one more Friday night — a spectacular first half, to be more specific — to remember for the Temple Wildcats’ tandem of Jacksons.
Cornerback Roman Jackson displayed tremendous leaping ability while making three interceptions in the first half, and running back and fellow senior Anthony Jackson exploded for 209 yards rushing and four touchdowns before halftime to propel Temple to a 55-17 victory over Copperas Cove at chilly Wildcat Stadium, clinching a share of the Wildcats’ first district championship since 2015.
“We needed to play playoff football tonight going into the playoffs,” Temple coach Scott Stewart said.
Temple (8-2, 7-1) bounced back from last week’s turnover-filled 52-28 loss at Hewitt Midway (7-3, 7-1) to tie the Panthers for the District 12-6A crown. Both teams head into the Class 6A Division II playoffs, with Midway the top seed because it beat Temple. The Wildcats will hit the road next Friday to battle defending state champion Longview (10-0) — winner of 26 consecutive games — at 7:30 p.m. at Lobo Stadium.
“I think they’re pretty good. The focus is going to be high this week,” said Roman Jackson, who pushed his season total to seven interceptions — one more than his preseason goal. “We know we’re the underdog, so we’re going to approach it like (Temple’s 2016 playoff upset of unbeaten) Manvel.”
Anthony Jackson carried 14 times for 258 yards and touchdowns of 58, 47, 2 and 85 yards. He surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the first time with 1,010 after rushing for 938 and 936 yards in his sophomore and junior seasons, respectively.
“I actually wasn’t thinking about it. I was like, ‘Man, if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t,’” he said. “To put up 210 yards and four touchdowns in the first half in front of my family and friends in my last home game, I couldn’t do it without my offensive line. Every hole I got, I could park a truck there.”
Senior quarterback Vance Willis responded from his three-turnover game at Midway by throwing 38-yard touchdown passes to junior AJ McDuffy and senior Damien Robertson and rushing for a 14-yard third-quarter score, Temple’s only second-half TD.
Roman Jackson made two interceptions in Temple’s triple-overtime win over rival Belton last year. He needed only one half against Cove (3-7, 2-6) to snare a career-high three picks.
“I really just have never been tried like that. They kept trying me and I took advantage of the opportunities,” he said.
After McDuffy’s touchdown put Temple up 17-10, Roman Jackson leaped high and ripped the ball away from Jaylin Smith for his first interception that led to Anthony Jackson’s 47-yard TD sprint. On Cove’s next snap, Roman Jackson soared to make a one-handed interception near midfield. And 2 minutes before halftime, he easily cut in front of a receiver at the Temple 5-yard line for pick No. 3, followed by Anthony Jackson’s 85-yard scoring dash.
“One of them was kind of a gimme, but the other two were phenomenal,” Stewart said. “Roman’s the quintessential example of our only defensive starter coming back and playing big in a big game.”
And now, a trek to juggernaut Longview awaits the Wildcats.
“They’re a phenomenal football team, obviously. You look at the scores and what they’ve done to good people,” Stewart said. “But we’ve been in these situations before. I know what the experts are going to say, but I’ll take these kids. We’re going to have a great week and get on a bus for 4 hours and enjoy the moment.”
TEMPLE 55, COPPERAS COVE 17
Cove 7 3 0 7 — 17
Temple 10 35 7 3 — 55
Cove — Russel Cochran 14 run (Cameron Ryan kick)
Tem — Aaron Wagaman 36 field goal
Tem — Anthony Jackson 58 run (Wagaman kick)
Cove — Ryan 31 field goal
Tem — AJ McDuffy 38 pass from Vance Willis (Wagaman kick)
Tem — Jackson 47 run (Wagaman kick)
Tem — Jackson 2 run (Wagaman kick)
Tem — Jackson 85 run (Wagaman kick)
Tem — Damien Robertson 38 pass from Willis (Wagaman kick)
Tem — Willis 14 run (Wagaman kick)
Tem — Wagaman 30 field goal
Cove — Brody Sanders 18 run (Ryan kick)
First downs 17 17
Rushes-yards 44-232 38-410
Passing yards 99 102
Comp.-Att.-Int. 6-20-3 3-4-0
Punts-average 2-25.5 1-38
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 7-57 4-35
RUSHING — Copperas Cove: Cochran 14-81, Brandon Ortega 8-59, Micah Cox 11-40, Sanders 5-31, Devyn Taylor 6-21; Temple: Jackson 14-258, Willis 9-73, Luke Allen 2-40, Thomas McVade 5-22, Samari Howard 5-12, Jalen Robinson 2-8, team 1-(-3).
PASSING — Copperas Cove: Cochran 5-19-3-58, Jaylen Smith 1-1-0-41; Temple: Willis 3-4-0-102.
RECEIVING — Copperas Cove: Jahmeel Rice 1-41, Ethan Swanner 2-40, Smith 2-12, Sanders 1-6; Temple: McDuffy 1-38, Robertson 1-38, Allen 1-26.