COPPERAS COVE — All’s well that ends well, indeed.
The Wildcats had 24 points 10 minutes into Friday night’s clash against Copperas Cove, sputtered some during the next 10 then shut out the host after halftime for a rather convincing 55-21 victory at Bulldawg Stadium, bouncing back from their first defeat by starting District 12-6A 1-0.
“We were up 24-0 and I believe we started slacking. We thought we had the game already and that caused (the Bulldawgs) to do what they did. We came out after halftime and executed our jobs and did our thing,” said Temple defensive lineman Eric Shorter, who helped the Wildcats limit Cove to 188 yards and seven first downs. “It’s a good start for us as a team. We had high intensity and hopefully we can keep that up each week.”
Running back Samari Howard had 141 yards on 19 carries for Temple (3-1), including touchdown runs of 7, 1 and 28 yards, to go with six catches for 62 yards.
Quarterback Humberto Arizmendi weathered a pair of first-half interceptions to finish 12-of-19 for 191 yards and TD tosses to AJ McDuffy (46 and 24 yards) and Mikal Harrison-Pilot (41 yards). Aaron Wagaman made a 27-yard field goal and, on his first touch of the season, senior Bryce Langrum added a 52-yard touchdown run to cap the scoring.
Cove (1-3), which was without starting quarterback Shane Richey in the second half after the junior exited following a big hit late in the second quarter, picked up most of its impact plays on defense yet yielded 511 yards to Temple.
“Just coming into the game, we knew we had to be 1-0,” Howard said. “We got kind of lax in the second quarter. We went into the locker room, fixed it, and came out and dominated.”
Up 24-0 with 2:59 left in the opening quarter after Howard’s first two rushing scores sandwiched around McDuffy’s fully extended grab-turned-TD — and three 2-point run conversions by Howard — Temple surrendered 14 straight points off of a pair of turnovers.
Isaiah Chisholm was in the right spot to corral Arizmendi’s tipped pass, which the Cove defensive back returned 66 yards to Temple’s 1. Richey maneuvered in from 2 yards out three plays later to get Cove on the board about 2 minutes into the second.
The Wildcats had second-and-goal at the 10 when Tyrese Carter stepped in front of Arizmendi’s intended target and returned the interception 90 yards to the end zone to get the Bulldawgs within 24-14 with 5:27 left before halftime.
Arizmendi and Temple’s offense got back on track on the next drive, covering 66 yards in seven plays, with the final being McDuffy’s second TD catch.
After Richey went down, Russel Cochran took over and threw a 23-yard TD to Brandon Ortega to pull Cove within 31-21 heading into halftime, which apparently was an eventful intermission for the Wildcats.
“It’s a young team and sometimes when you get up on a team 24-0, you put it in neutral. That’s what I watched for about 10 minutes of that second quarter. To get outscored 21-7 in a quarter is unacceptable, and I don’t care if we’re playing the Dallas Cowboys,” Temple head coach Scott Stewart said. “So, I went in at halftime and they got to see the ugly side of Coach Stewart because, again, I don’t care what the scoreboard said. I promised this town I would try to put the best product on the field and that second quarter was not the best product on the field that we can put, and that’s just not acceptable. So, went in and challenged them and I was proud of how they responded.”
The response included Harrison-Pilot’s catch-and-run score that was aided by a Luke Allen block and Harrison-Pilot’s shifty side-step of the final defender, Wagaman’s field goal, Howard’s last rushing TD and Langrum’s dash.
TEMPLE 55, COPPERAS COVE 21
Temple 24 7 7 17 — 55
Copperas Cove 0 21 0 0 — 21
Tem — Samari Howard 7 run (Howard run)
Tem — AJ McDuffy 46 pass from Humberto Arizmendi (Howard run)
Tem — Howard 1 run (Howard run)
Cove — Shane Richey 2 run (Caleb Newberry kick)
Cove — Tyrese Carter 90 interception return (Newberry kick)
Tem — McDuffy 24 pass from Arizmendi (Aaron Wagaman kick)
Cove — Brandon Ortega 23 pass from Russel Cochran (Newberry kick)
Tem — Mikal Harrison-Pilot 41 pass from Arizmendi (Wagaman kick)
Tem — Howard 28 run (Wagaman kick)
Tem — Bryce Langrum 52 run (Wagaman kick)
First downs 20 7
Rushes-yards 41-320 34-105
Passing yards 175 83
Comp.-Att.-Int. 12-19-2 7-19-0
Punts-average 2-42.5 6-38.1
Fumbles-lost 0 2-1
Penalties-yards 7-60 6-48
RUSHING — Temple: Howard 19-141, Langrum 6-74, Arizmendi 7-70, Harrison-Pilot 3-23, Jalen Robinson 5-8, Thomas McVade 1-4; Copperas Cove: Ortega 9-59, Richey 9-22, Warren Fleming 6-16, Brody Sanders 3-5, Josiah Key 2-5, Cochran 5-(-2).
PASSING — Temple: Arizmendi 12-19-2-175; Copperas Cove: Richey 4-8-0-28, Cochran 3-11-0-55.
RECEIVING — Temple: McDuffy 3-82, Harrison-Pilot 3-47, Howard 6-46; Copperas Cove: Tyrez Reynolds 4-57, Ortega 2-25, Fleming 1-1.