Some were as straight forward as changing alignment on the defensive line and exploring different blocking angles to aid the rushing attack. In any instance, Temple’s adjustments after halftime Thursday night against Killeen Ellison continued the Wildcats’ trend of dominant second halves during their 3-0 start to District 12-6A.
After allowing 21 points and 255 yards during the first 24 minutes, Temple surrendered six points and 74 yards after the break en route to a 56-27 road victory over the Eagles (2-4, 1-2) at Leo Buckley Stadium in Killeen, extending its overall winning streak to four.
Temple (4-2) has outscored opponents 91-26 over the third and fourth quarters in league play — 35-7 at Bryan, 29-13 versus Harker Heights and 27-6 against Ellison. The Wildcats led the Vikings 14-0 and trailed the Knights 21-15 at halftime. They were up 29-21 at intermission Thursday night.
Head coach Scott Stewart on Friday morning pointed to diligent offseason preparation that laid the foundation, stringent game planning prior to each contest and honest communication as components toward the way in which Temple has produced its second-half surges.
“The guys we are playing against, they are good coaches and good players and there’s always going to be wrinkles that we’ll have to adjust to,” Stewart said. “When we (go into the locker room at halftime), we actually grind. Conversations are all about the game.
“We talk ad nauseam about adjustments, and the coaches do a good job of installing our contingency plans if we see something we haven’t seen or struggling with something that’s not working. We do more on offense and defense than most of the other places I’ve been, and these kids are smarter than you can ever imagine.”
Running back Samari Howard, who had 139 of his game-high 207 yards rushing in the second half, said Thursday night that the players’ willingness to have open ears no matter how frank critiques become also benefits the Wildcats in their charge to the finish line each night.
“We have a lot of heart. We’ve been through everything together. Our bond is so tight-knit,” said Howard, who is up to 879 yards rushing this season. “On both sides of the ball, we don’t flinch. Even if we mess up, we accept coaching. I think that’s the big point about this team. We accept coaching and we are very coachable.”
Said Stewart of his senior’s observations, “That goes back to the relationships and a level of respect between the coaches and players. We always say coach them as hard as needed and love on them even harder. I had very direct conversations with some individuals (on Thursday) and a very pointed conversation with the whole team. I’m very curt with these boys and don’t sugarcoat it when it’s not good enough because of the expectations we have for our program. Some respond differently but they try to do exactly what we tell them to do because they want to come out and make their coaches proud.”
What’s said seems to sink in, more often than not.
Stewart mentioned a tweak on the defensive line involving what’s referred to as the “B gap” after Ellison’s Dominick Allison had scoring runs of 75 and 65 yards in the first half.
That fix was the first topic junior defensive lineman Jaylon Jackson brought up postgame.
“At the beginning of the game, (Allison) had those long runs. After halftime, we came back and shut down those B gaps and they didn’t get any more big runs after that,” Jackson said.
Thursday’s stat recap
Jackson and Eric Shorter had one sack apiece for a Temple defense that recorded five turnovers. Naeten Mitchell and LaMichael Thompson had interceptions, Taurean York and Andre Anderson forced a fumble each and Faylin Lee recovered another fumble. The Wildcats tallied 13 turnovers in their three district tilts.
Temple’s offense overcame three turnovers to cross the 50-point plateau and gained 441 yards. The Wildcats are averaging 49.6 points per game in 12-6A.
Mikal Harrison-Pilot had a team-high 110 yards receiving, including a 72-yard catch and run on which he hauled in a short slant pass and left two defenders on the ground after a quick pivot cut to the outside before racing the remaining 60 yards to the end zone.
Howard had two TDs rushing and one receiving, KeAndre Smith grabbed his first TD catch of the season and Devan Williams added a 17-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter. The scoring was capped by Tavaris Sullivan’s 3-yard touchdown run that was among his 51 yards rushing and Temple’s 239-yard ground effort behind an offensive line that didn’t allow a sack and surrendered only five negative-yardage carries in 36 attempts.
“They go and get it in the battle,” Stewart said of Temple’s offensive line. “They played their guts out.”
TEMPLE 56, KILLEEN ELLISON 27
Temple 29 0 13 14 — 56
Killeen Ellison 14 7 6 0 — 27
Tem — Mikal Harrison-Pilot 72 pass from Reese Rumfield (Danis Bajric kick)
Tem — KeAndre Smith 12 pass from Rumfield (Bajric kick)
Ell — Dominick Allison 75 run (Carlos DeJesus kick)
Tem — Samari Howard 29 pass from Rumfield (Bajric kick)
Tem — Howard 3 run (Tomas Torres pass from Howard)
Ell — Kyler Villalba 3 run (DeJesus kick)
Ell — Allison 65 run (DeJesus kick)
Tem — Howard 64 run (Bajric kick)
Tem — Bajric 23 field goal
Tem — Bajric 27 field goal
Ell — Breon Williams 3 pass from Villalba (kick failed)
Tem — Devan Williams 17 pass from Reese Rumfield (Bajric kick)
Tem — Tavaris Sullivan 3 run (Bajric kick)
First downs 21 11
Rushes-yards 38-239 32-158
Passing yards 202 171
Comp.-Att.-Int. 11-30-2 13-32-1
Punts-average 4-41.25 4-29.75
Fumbles-lost 1-1 3-3
Penalties-yards 3-30 13-68
RUSHING — Temple: Howard 28-207, Sullivan 5-51, Rumfield 1-1, Harrison-Pilot 2-(-1), team 2-(-19); Ellison: Allison 9-151, Kaleb Sims 7-19, Zy’Aire King 2-11, Xavier Cortes 2-4, Villalba 9-(-9), Rashawn Pinnick 1-0, Kyle Micka 1-0, team 1-(-18).
PASSING — Temple: Rumfield 11-30-2-202; Ellison: Villalba 12-31-2-166, King 1-1-0-5.
RECEIVING — Temple: Harrison-Pilot 5-110, Williams 3-48, Howard 2-32, Smith 1-12; Ellison: Dantrell Sterling 5-114, King 2-9, Darius Wilson 1-35, Bobby Williams 1-8, Calvin Harper 1-7, Breon Williams 1-3, Malachi Robins 1-(-2), Allison 1-(-1).