The Temple Wildcats must’ve felt like it was Christmas morning, but instead of trying to pick which gift to play with first, the decision in front of them was what achievement to celebrate first.
The choice — all of them, a lot, and loudly.
Senior running back Samari Howard climbed into the program record book twice Friday night at Wildcat Stadium, where Temple delivered a clinic during its regular-season finale and coasted to a 77-12 romp of Copperas Cove to officially clinch a second consecutive unbeaten run to the outright District 12-6A championship.
“To be able to go two years in a league like this and go unscathed is a tribute to these kids and these coaches. This is a tough league to do that in,” said Temple head coach Scott Stewart, who hoisted the traditional gold ball trophy postgame into a sea of Wildcats. “So, just very proud of the coaches and the kids for the effort and the stuff that they’ve done to put themselves in this position.”
Howard, who tied the previous scoring mark of 312 points last week, took his place alone atop that category with a 1-yard run at 5:41 of the first. His 3-yard TD with 3:45 to go before halftime was his fourth of the first half and the 53rd of a stellar career to set another record.
“To be blessed enough to coach a kid like that, not because he has records but because he’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around, he’s one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever been around and he’s one of the smartest kids I’ve ever been around,” Stewart said. “So, to have that happen to him, I don’t think it can happen to a better person. Glad he’s at the top and glad he’s a Temple Wildcat.”
An announcement was made over the PA system after each milestone to a roar from the home fans each time that fit the occasion, and Howard obliged a handful of photo requests on the field after the final whistle.
“I’m lost for words. It’s just a crazy experience right now,” a humbled Howard said. “To be recognized as one of the greats, and I put that with quotes around it because I still have work to do, it’s just crazy.”
The Wildcats (8-2, 7-0), who led 21-0 after the first quarter and 56-0 at halftime, scored on every possession and hit pay dirt at will in the first half, posting eight touchdowns on just 23 offensive plays.
In addition to his 1- and 3-yard TDs, Howard also scored from 15 and 8 yards. Quarterback Reese Rumfield recorded his first rushing TD of the season on a 25-yard carry and went 6-for-6 for 178 yards, with two touchdown tosses to Mikal Harrison-Pilot (30 and 19 yards), who also had a 4-yard scoring jaunt.
Rumfield finished 8-of-8 for 196 yards in 2½ quarters as Temple outgained Cove 516-162 overall.
“I’ve never seen so many points on the scoreboard, though. That was a new one,” Howard said. “We came in and knew if we didn’t play playoff football Coach Stewart was going to be disappointed. So, I mean, we scored every time we touched the ball. But, we still have work to do. We’re going to get back going on Monday.”
Temple’s defense held Cove, which lost starting QB Shane Richey early to injury, to just 49 first-half yards and got an interception from Zion Moore and sacks by Tomas Torres, Taurean York, Jaylon Jackson and Ka’Morian Carter.
“We are an aggressive team. We just came in having a dog mentality and ready to play” Temple safety Naeten Mitchell said. “To be able to hold that trophy and know that we worked so hard for this, there’s no better feeling.”
Temple’s reserves received ample playing time in the second half, and a running clock was implemented in the fourth.
Tavaris Sullivan’s rushing TDs of 5 and 11 yards and QB Damarion Willis’ 31-yard scamper accounted for Temple’s tallies in the second half, when Cove (1-9, 1-6) got on the board with TD runs by Malcom Roberts and Trey Fossett.
"My challenge all week long was I wanted us to play like our hair was on fire and I think everybody gets that metaphor, even though I’ve never personally seen anybody with their hair on fire," Stewart said. "But, they took it to heart and I thought tonight was probably the best effort we put together. So, proud of those kids for that."
Next up for Temple is a Class 6A Division II bi-district home encounter with 11-6A fourth seed Waxahachie (6-4) at 7:30 p.m. next Friday
TEMPLE 77, COPPERAS COVE 12
Copperas Cove 0 0 6 6 — 12
Temple 21 35 7 14 — 77
Tem — Mikal Harrison-Pilot 4 run (Danis Bajric kick)
Tem — Samari Howard 1 run (Bajric kick)
Tem — Reese Rumfield 25 run (Bajric kick)
Tem — Howard 15 run (Bajric kick)
Tem — Howard 8 run (Bajric kick)
Tem — Harrison-Pilot 30 pass from Rumfield (Bajric kick)
Tem — Howard 3 run (Bajric kick)
Tem — Harrison-Pilot 19 pass from Rumfield (Bajric kick)
Tem — Tavaris Sullivan 5 run (Bajric kick)
CC — Malcom Roberts 9 run (kick blocked)
Tem — Sullivan 11 run (Bajric kick)
CC — Trey Fossett 15 run (kick failed)
Tem — Damarion Willis 31 run (Bajric kick)
First downs 7 22
Rushes-yards 36-104 31-322
Passing yards 58 194
Comp.-Att.-Int. 8-14-1 9-10-0
Punts-average 4-20.25 0
Fumbles-lost 2-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 3-25 5-45
RUSHING — Copperas Cove: Fossett 10-42, Roberts 12-29, Bra’Dyn Brooks-Smith 4-42, Shane Richey 3-3, Blaine Butler 13-(-10), team 2-(-2); Temple: Howard 9-96, Sullivan 13-91, Willis 2-46, Jalen Robinson 2-33, Rumfield 3-20, Tr’Darius Taylor 1-32, Harrison-Pilot 1-4.
PASSING — Copperas Cove: Butler 6-11-1-35, Richey 2-3-0-23; Temple: Rumfield 8-8-0-196, Willis 1-2-0-(-2).
RECEIVING — Copperas Cove: Demetrius Pearce 3-21, Trishstin Glass 2-23, Roberts 1-7, Wyatt Nelson 1-7, Ezekiel Kaleopa-Lynn 1-0; Temple: Taylor 2-50, Harrison-Pilot 2-49, Kobe Smith 2-31, Devan Williams 1-57, Nyles Moreland 1-9, Joseph Bates 1-(-2).