Wildcats and Tigers

Temple’s Zion Moore tackles Belton’s Garrett Oliveira (8) in the teams’ rivalry matchup Friday night at Tiger Field.

BELTON — Five days after Temple went to 0-2, junior safety Naeten Mitchell spoke about the Wildcats’ frame of mind as they dealt with a bit of unfamiliar territory. There was no panic, he said. He could sense a turning of the corner, that good things were brewing.

“We are going to stay a family and it’s going to come together,” Mitchell said Sept. 8.

Five weeks later, it appears the Wildcats are indeed on their way to something. Temple is 5-0 since, with a ceiling, according to them, not yet reached in the least.

Friday night’s 50-15 victory over District 12-6A foe and longtime rival Belton — the Wildcats’ ninth straight in the series — encapsulated what’s transpired between defeats against Austin Westlake and Magnolia West to now.

The streak started with a shootout win over Hutto that wasn’t that close until the fourth quarter, continued with a lopsided win at Bryan, a stirring comeback triumph over Harker Heights and a steady-enough rout of Killeen Ellison.

On Friday, a little bit of everything that went into those victories pushed the first-place Wildcats (5-2, 4-0) decisively past the Tigers (3-4, 2-2).

Tr’Darius Taylor had a 75-yard touchdown catch just 9 seconds in, quarterback Reese Rumfield was 13-of-19 for 199 yards and a TD, Samari Howard had 101 yards rushing and three short TD runs, and Mikal Harrison-Pilot added a 2-yard scoring run for an offense that produced right at about its scoring average and benefitted from prime field position throughout thanks to a pair of interceptions and two punt blocks.

“Everybody. We love it. Everybody contributes,” senior defensive lineman Eric Shorter said.

Kaleb Hill and Faylin Lee had the picks for Temple’s defense, which limited a capable, physical Tigers rushing attack to 2.3 yards per carry and allowed a season-low 233 yards, 115 of which were gobbled up on Belton’s two TDs.

Hill returned his interception 44 yards to the Belton 15-yard line with 8:31 left in the first quarter. Two plays later, Howard barreled in for a 3-yard TD.

Lee’s interception late in the third quarter set up Temple at the Tigers 13. From there, Tavaris Sullivan carried it three times, including his 1-yard plunge across the goal line.

By the way, Temple upped its turnover intake to 15 during four district tilts.

What was that point you were making, Shorter?

“Everybody is a contributor to this team,” he said with greater emphasis.

The punt blocks have been a work in progress, plans put in place in practice successfully put into motion.

“We always work on it every day, always keep grinding always make sure we fit our stuff and make sure that we are in the correct spots,” said senior running back Jalen Robinson, who was credited with both blocks.

The first gave the Wildcats the ball at the Belton 18 and led to Howard’s second rushing TD. The second, about a minute later, was scooped up by O’Tarian Peoples at the 2-yard line and he stumbled his way in for the points.

“We played well. I thought we were more consistent and that’s what we are trying to build on, and that’s what we are going to try to do,” head coach Scott Stewart said.

All in a day’s work. Or, maybe, all in due time.

“We made up our minds (at 0-2) and said if we are going to get where we want to go, we’re going to have to make tough decisions and have to sacrifice our bodies and stuff to get where we want to go,” Robinson said.

Right now, the Wildcats are in first place with three league games to go. Shorter, though, said complacency isn’t in the cards. Key games against Killeen Shoemaker, Killeen and Copperas Cove await.

“We used the losses as positivity. We changed that adversity into positivity instead of negativity,” he said. “We are just trying to craft our journey, to make everything better by playoffs, but we’re just taking it one at a time, though.”