Head coach Scott Stewart described Temple’s tangle with Waxahachie on Friday night as hard-rock mining. Well, it’s a good thing the Wildcats have the type of players who can chip away when the going gets tough.
Locked in a physical Class 6A Division II bi-district bout that was tied entering the fourth quarter, Temple turned to familiar playmakers to pocket a 28-14 victory over the Indians at Wildcat Stadium, its ninth straight win overall and second postseason triumph over Waxahachie in as many seasons.
“There are no easy wins at this point. I mean, you can go out on any given day and get blown out by 50 or have a 14-14 game in the fourth quarter,” Stewart said. “So, playoff football has its own set of rules. You have to grind it out and do what you can.”
What the Wildcats (9-2) did Friday was earn their second consecutive trip to the area round, in which they will encounter another rematch from 2020’s postseason run — Rockwall-Heath (10-1). Temple and the Hawks will play at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at Burleson ISD Stadium.
“A lot of work ahead of us, but I’d rather be doing that than packing stuff up,” Stewart said.
Temple led 14-7 at halftime but the lead evaporated late in the third quarter when Joseph Lankford caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Roderick Hartsfield Jr. with 1:50 left.
Naturally, the Wildcats leaned on senior running back Samari Howard and junior receiver Mikal Harrison-Pilot, both of whom lined up at quarterback most of the night after starter Reese Rumfield was injured in the second quarter.
Harrison-Pilot’s 37-yard pass to Howard set up the Wildcats with first-and-goal at the 2-yard line, where Howard took a direct snap on the next play and scooted in to regain the lead for Temple, 21-14, with 10:20 to go in the fourth quarter.
Howard, Temple’s all-time leading scorer, then iced it with a dashing 84-yard TD run with 5:32 remaining.
“We have a lot of fight in us,” Harrison-Pilot said. “They have a great defense and to come out there and battle with them, we put up a dog fight and came out with a win.”
Howard finished with 191 yards rushing, more than half of Temple’s 304 yards of total offense.
“When we saw Reese was hurt, we were like, ‘Ah, man, no way,’ because he’s our quarterback and we need him,” Temple offensive lineman Colby Rice said. “But we also knew that Mikal and Samari could get the job done, too.”
Rumfield returned at one point in the third quarter, and Stewart said the sophomore should be OK for next week.
Iverson Young led the Indians (6-5) with 170 yards rushing, 136 of them in the first half, when both teams dealt with QB injuries and the Indians outgained the Wildcats 188-109.
Hartsfield missed a series and a half after taking a hit at the end of a 5-yard run on the Indians’ first possession, which ended when Jesse Garfias’ 36-yard field goal try missed left.
Rumfield was injured early in the second quarter as he scrambled to avoid an eventual sack.
Young, lined up at QB, barreled in from 9 yards out on the first play of the second quarter to put Waxahachie ahead 7-0. It was the first points the Indians scored against the Wildcats in five quarters.
Temple, which defeated the Indians 38-0 in the same setting a year ago, countered in a hurry when Devan Williams caught the ensuing kickoff on the run at the 25 and dashed almost untouched for a 75-yard touchdown to tie it at the 11:43 mark.
“Coach always tells me, ‘Catch it on the run.’ I caught it full-stride, my teammates blocked really well, I saw a hole and there was nothing but green grass,” Williams said. “We’d been waiting to break one loose. Why not now? Why not in a playoff game when we needed it most? I’m glad it happened.”
A series of punts led to Temple with the ball at its 20 with 6:06 to go before the break. From there, Harrison-Pilot led a 13-play, 5-minute scoring drive. It was kept alive by Howard’s 4-yard pickup on fourth-and-1 at the Indians 35 and, three plays later, Harrison-Pilot kept and sprinted up the middle for a 30-yard score and a key 14-7 halftime advantage.
“Hat’s off to (Waxahachie). I mean, that’s a good football team, probably the best 6-5 team in the state of Texas. I respect the hell out of Coach (Shane) Tolleson. He’s a great human being. My heart hurts for them because I know him personally but, just thankful for another opportunity,” Stewart said. “(The Wildcats) are gutsy kids. I thought they responded really well to the coaching and the adjustments we made in the fourth quarter and made some big-time plays.”
TEMPLE 28, WAXAHACHIE 14
Waxahachie 0 7 7 0 — 14
Temple 0 14 0 14 — 28
Wax — Iverson Young 9 run (Jesse Gafias kick)
Tem — Devan Williams 75 kickoff return (Danis Bajric kick)
Tem — Mikal Harrison-Pilot 30 run (Bajric kick)
Wax — Joseph Lankford 23 pass from Roderick Hartsfield (Gafias kick)
Tem — Samari Howard 2 run (Bajric kick)
Tem — Howard 84 run (Bajric kick)
First downs 17 12
Rushes-yards 43-286 39-226
Passing yards 82 78
Comp.-Att.-Int. 11-20-0 6-14-0
Punts-average 5-31 4-38.75
Fumbles-lost 0 1-0
Penalties-yards 11-95 8-75
RUSHING — Waxahachie: Young 21-170, Jaylen Becks 13-95, Hartsfield 9-21; Temple: Howard 27-191, Harrison-Pilot 7-41, Tavaris Sullivan 2-5, Reese Rumfield 2-(-6), team 1-(-5).
PASSING — Waxahachie: Hartsfield 9-18-0-82, Young 2-2-0-0; Temple: Rumfield 3-9-0-24, Harrison-Pilot 3-5-0-54.
RECEIVING — Waxahachie: Lankford 4-44, Keith Abney 3-29, Terrell Davis 1-7, Young 1-4, Becks 1-5, Blair Hawkins 1-(-7); Temple: Williams 2-20, Howard 1-37, Harrison-Pilot 1-11, Michael Heckstall 1-7, Tr’Darius Taylor 1-3.