Temple football notebook

Temple QB Reese Rumfield (10) runs for a touchdown during last week’s game. The Wildcats host Waxahachie to open the playoffs Friday.

Video gaming is such a popular activity these days, so perhaps it’s appropriate to put Temple’s status into terms of a virtual adventure.

The Wildcats navigated Level 1, a turbulent non-district course, which had its obstacles that proved to be learning tools instead of lasting hurdles.

They pressed all the right buttons during Level 2 and steamrolled through District 12-6A, pocketing the prize at the end that earned them advancement to the final stage — Level 3, the playoffs.

This endeavor is the most complex yet. There’s risk and reward around every turn. It includes a possible six-week quest with a trophy at the end of each segment. Beyond that, this last chapter is the most challenging because one slip up and it’s “Game Over” with no potions to prolong the fight or code for re-entry.

Temple head coach Scott Stewart has another way to depict the do-or-don’t scenario that’s upon the Wildcats (8-2) after months of daily grind that so far has yielded a second straight unbeaten run to a league title and the program’s ninth consecutive postseason qualification.

“I’ve heard Coach (Mike) Spradlin say it like, when you get to the third season, you push down on the gas on the bus and just go, and when it’s over, there’s no slowing down. You just drive off a cliff. Like, you are literally in one moment where you are trying to win a game and the next it’s just over, and you have to make a transition to another group of emotions — good, bad or ugly,” Stewart said. “So, if you do pull it off, the bus ride continues and the road stays underneath you. But for 32 (Class 6A) teams on Friday and Saturday, the road is going to cease being there. It just stops.”

Either way it’s sliced or expounded upon, from this point forward, it’s win or go home. That’s it.

It all starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday when Temple hosts Waxahachie for a 6A Division II bi-district playoff at Wildcat Stadium.

“Congratulations on what you’ve done but at this moment that means exactly bubkes. It means nothing moving forward. Now, you need to draw from those experiences and you need to use that for what it is, but it does not pass the threshold. What you’ve done to this point stays at the door. When you enter into the third season, everything else is behind you. The wins don’t come, the losses don’t come, the mistakes don’t come, the great plays don’t come. You have to completely start over if you’re going to spend any time in the playoffs,” Stewart said.

“If we don’t get it done Friday night, life will go on. It’s a game. But why do we do all this if we aren’t going to pour our hearts and our souls and our guts into it? So, let’s make the road last. The best we can be is 1-0 this week. It’s the same formula, there’s just an extra oomph on it.”

Power up and log in.

Wildcats ready. Indians ready.

Game on.

The winner faces either Rockwall-Heath (9-1) or Garland Naaman Forest (5-2) in the area round next week at Burleson ISD Stadium. A specific day and time have not been set.

Tolleson brings revamped Waxahachie into Temple

The names on the jerseys are the same but Stewart said in no way is Temple facing the same Waxahachie that was shut out 38-0 when the schools met in the same round in the same location last December.

Reason No. 1 for that, Stewart said, is Indians first-year head coach Shane Tolleson, who spent the last seven seasons as defensive coordinator at Denton Ryan, the reigning 5A Division I state champion, and already has invigorated the program with a mindset that breeds success.

“The main thing I wanted to do was get the right coaching staff in here around these players, because culture transcends from me to the staff to the players,” said Tolleson, who was hired Feb. 8. “Second was bringing the tradition and community back into it. We want it to look like (the community) and play like it.”

Stewart said the differences are noticeable and not surprising.

“They are playing with his personality and that’s the ultimate tribute to a coach. He’s a quiet, modest guy but he is tough,” said Stewart, who first met Tolleson in 2016 when the teams shared a common playoff opponent, Dallas Highland Park. “I went to meet with his staff a few times, just sharing ideas. I think he liked some of the stuff we did. I got some stuff from them. You know, there’s just a connection. The guy puts Christ first. He’s a family guy. He’s such a good human being. Real easy to like. Just salt of the earth.”

The respect is mutual.

“Scott is a good friend. His kids are well coached and play hard for him. He gets everything out of those kids and that’s a credit to him,” Tolleson said. “Coach Stewart and his staff do an unbelievable job.”

During the regular season, 11-6A fourth seed Waxahachie (6-4) played four games that were decided by six points or less. They went 1-3 in those, including last week against DeSoto (8-2) when the Indians fell 31-25 after being stopped short on fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard line late in the fourth quarter.

“We just have to figure out at the end a way to finish out and close those things,” Tolleson said. “But they happen to be great learning experiences for everyone and show the things you have to do.”

Their other defeats were 22-21 in overtime to Ennis (10-0), 14-10 to Cedar Hill (7-3) and 56-3 to Duncanville (8-1) in a game that was tied 3-3 at halftime.

“They went toe-to-toe with everybody. I mean 3-3 at halftime against Duncanville. They play some good folks, which is why I want to play good folks early. Everybody thinks I’m crazy, but this is why,” Stewart said, referring to Temple’s non-district slate of Austin Westlake, Magnolia West and Hutto, which are a combined 24-6 heading into the playoffs. “They are playing good folks and they don’t have any choice in the matter. It’s their district.”

Tale of the tape

Waxahachie scored an average of 23.9 points and allowed 22.3 during the regular season while Temple posted 46.7 and gave up 25. In district play, the Wildcats averaged 54.3 points and allowed 16.6. They forced 18 turnovers during that seven-game 12-6A span that also included 13 stops on fourth down.

“Offensively, we have to figure out a way to move the ball. They are aggressive and they are going to try to move around and try to disrupt people in the backfield. We have to stay ahead of the chains and leave the playbook open because if you let Shane Tolleson pin his ears back because he knows what you’re doing, it’s going to be hard-rock mining,” Stewart said. “Defensively, we have to try to make them earn it. They like to pound the football but they are way more multiple than they used to be.”

Both squads have linebackers with 100-plus tackles in Wildcats junior Taurean York (117) and Indians senior LaMarkus Reed (116). Brenden White’s 13 sacks and Jermy Jackson’s eight are part of Waxahachie’s 32 this season. Jaylon Jackson and Tomas Torres share the lead with five sacks for Temple, which has 20 overall. Safety Naeten Mitchell and linebacker Faylin Lee are second in tackles for Temple with 52 each.

While senior Samari Howard is Temple’s featured running back (career-high 1,359 yards, 16 touchdowns), the Indians split carries nearly equally between Iverson Young and Jayden Becks, who both have about 760 yards rushing this season for an offense that has shown to prefer the ground approach.

Waxahachie’s Roderick Hartsfield Jr. and Temple’s Reese Rumfield each are in their first seasons as starting quarterbacks. Rumfield has thrown it a lot more, though, and wrapped up the regular season 92-of-178 for 1,744 yards and 24 touchdowns, including eight over the last three games.

“The big key for us is don’t do anything to hurt ourselves. Handle the trip, handle the emotion of the game and don’t make it bigger than it needs to be,” Tolleson said. “We want to try to play harder longer than them and play to our standard.”