Finality is inevitable the moment the playoffs begin. That one game could be the last. Players know it. Coaches know it. But that doesn’t make the end any less difficult to digest.
Taurean York stood almost in the exact same spot on Bob McQueen Field well after the final whistle Friday night, helmet still on, handing out a few high-fives and hugs to fans, friends and family who walked up to the linebacker.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” York said. “I’m sure when I get to the locker room it will.”
Waxahachie scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams and turned its third consecutive postseason visit to Wildcat Stadium into the charm by defeating the Wildcats 30-21 in the teams’ Class 6A Division I bi-district contest.
“I wish I could have led them better and pushed them harder. My promise was to go all the way and I failed them,” said York, the Baylor-bound senior, whose many thoughts after wrapping up a superlative four-year varsity career drifted to those not in pads. “I feel bad for the scout team and the trainers and the filmers because those are the lug nuts behind this program. Without them, this train wouldn’t be able to go.
“I left it all on the line and Temple will be back.”
That’s likely true. For now, though, the Wildcats (7-4) abruptly head into the offseason, a 10th consecutive playoff appearance cut short by the Indians (9-2), who walked off the same field as winners for the first time in three tries.
Temple defeated Waxahachie 38-0 in 2020 and 28-14 a year ago. On a this chilly Friday, the Indians never trailed, intercepted three Reese Rumfield passes — including a 42-yard pick-six by Keith Abney — and recovered two fumbles.
“It’s feels great, man. It feels great coming in here and finally getting the win and getting the monkey off our back,” said Waxahachie senior running back Iverson Young, whose squad will face Rockwall (10-1) in the area round. “But we know we’re not done yet.”
Temple trailed 16-9 at halftime but quickly was within one when senior Mikal Harrison-Pilot turned a short reception into a 40-yard TD on the second play of the third quarter.
Waxahachie then picked up a pair of favorable bounces to essentially put the game out of reach.
Quarterback Roderick Hartsfield’s fumble at the Temple 3-yard line popped up off the turf and to running back Jayden Becks, who headed into the end zone for a 2-yard score to make it 23-15 with 48 seconds left in the third quarter.
LaMarkus Reed, a linebacker, then alertly picked up a Temple punt that had hopped backward after landing and raced 56 yards for a touchdown and a 30-15 advantage at 11:33 of the fourth.
Naeten Mitchell’s toe-tapping 18-yard TD reception brought Temple within 30-21 with 7:27 to go, but the Wildcats couldn’t get any closer.
Harrison-Pilot closed his four-year career with seven receptions for 140 yards and 73 yards rushing and another score before exiting with an injury after taking a hard hit with about 9 minutes to play.
Iverson finished with a game-high 102 yards rushing.
“The last game always stings the most just because 30 of these kids know they’re not playing high school football again and all of them know this group won’t be the same. Some guys will be coming back but, this group, this unit, won’t exist again. I think that’s part of life and a process you have to go through. But it still doesn’t make it any easier,” Temple head coach Scott Stewart said.
“My hat’s off to Waxahachie. They are a good football team. They are well-coached. But you have to take care of the football. You can’t be sloppy with the football and you can’t give up a punt return touchdown. So, it’s tough. It’s frustrating.”
Jesse Garfias’ 36-yard field goal capped Waxahachie’s opening 10-play, 53-yard drive and put the Indians ahead 3-0, and it was 10-0 about 3½ minutes later when Young rumbled through four tackle attempts for a 22-yard TD run at 2:44 of the first quarter.
Mitchell sparked Temple with an interception and subsequent 71-yard return to the Waxahachie 5. It was the senior’s team-leading fifth pick of the season. On Temple’s ensuing offensive snap, Harrison-Pilot trotted 5 yards into the end zone to get the Wildcats within 10-6 with 8:31 left in the second quarter.
Abney put the Indians back up by 10 with 4:45 before halftime when the senior defensive back corralled a tipped pass and sprinted untouched 42 yards for the touchdown.
Temple’s defense made an important stand with 45 seconds left in the half by forcing an incomplete pass on fourth down, four plays after defensive tackle Jacob Ervin came away with Waxahachie’s second interception.
The Wildcats went to work, and completions of 25 and 19 yards to Harrison-Pilot from Rumfield had Temple at the Waxahachie 28. After a roughing the passer call as time expired in the second quarter, Mateo Lopez made an untimed, 32-yard field goal to narrow the gap to 16-9 at the break.
WAXAHACHIE 30, TEMPLE 21
Waxahachie 10 6 7 7 — 30
Temple 0 9 6 6 — 21
Wax — Jesse Garfias 36 field goal
Wax — Iverson Young 22 run (Garfias kick)
Tem — Mikal Harrison-Pilot 5 run (run failed)
Wax — Keith Abney 42 interception return (run failed)
Tem — Mateo Lopez 32 field goal
Tem — Harrison-Pilot 40 pass from Reese Rumfield (run failed)
Wax — Jayden Becks 2 run (Garfias kick)
Wax — LaMarkus Reed 56 punt return (Garfias kick)
Tem — Naeten Mitchell 18 pass from Rumfield (kick blocked)
First downs 13 19
Rushes-yards 45-214 28-119
Passing yards 60 174
Comp.-Att.-Int. 5-11-1 15-33-3
Punts-average 2-31 2-27.5
Fumbles-lost 2-1 4-2
Penalties-yards 9-80 3-30
RUSHING — Waxahachie: Young 14-102, Becks 16-69, Roderick Hartsfield 12-48, De’Tyrian McCoy 1-1, team 2-(-6); Temple: Harrison-Pilot 12-73, Deshaun Brundage 7-24, Steve Jackson 3-18, Christian Tutson 2-10, Rumfield 4-(-6).
PASSING — Waxahachie: Hartsfield 5-11-1-60; Temple: Rumfield 14-33-3-174, Harrison-Pilot 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — Waxahachie: Abney 1-25, McCoy 2-16, Young 1-13, Trenton Kidd 1-6; Temple: Harrison-Pilot 7-140, Tutson 3-16, Jaquon Butler 1-9, William Garcia 1-6, Jeremiah Lennon 1-5, Brundage 1-(-2).