Temple head coach Scott Stewart has a metaphor or a phrase or an analogy ready to go for just about every occasion. Some he’s formulated on his own through his extended coaching career. Some he’s inherited from his grand dad or father. This week, he borrowed one from Temple ISD superintendent Bobby Ott.
“Dr. Ott says all the time, there’s a reason why the windshield is huge and the rearview mirror is very, very small,” Stewart said Tuesday. “The focus needs to be there.”
The genesis of that outlook stems from the Wildcats’ standing as they enter the District 12-6A and regular-season finale Friday night against Copperas Cove.
Already postseason-bound, Temple (7-2, 6-0), which has won seven in a row overall, can lock up a second straight unbeaten run to an outright league title with a win over the Bulldawgs (1-8, 1-5). While that’s an exciting prospect to consider, the task still needs to be handled, which is what Stewart said is consuming his thoughts this week.
“I don’t put a whole lot of stock in (being undefeated again in district) because it can be a distraction. I think it’s pretty cool but it’s what you talk about when the season is over. I don’t have time to worry about what we’ve accomplished. There’s too much in front,” Stewart said. “The only thing we have that’s right in front of us is Copperas Cove.”
The Bulldawgs have lost three in a row since beating Killeen 56-33 on Oct. 8. They’ve been outscored 164-34 during that span, including last week’s 64-14 setback versus Harker Heights.
Senior quarterback Shane Richey, in his second season as a starter, orchestrates Cove’s run-based offense that typically totes the ball behind a sizable offensive line about twice as many times a night as it throws it. Richey is 67-of-149 for 842 yards, with four touchdowns and five interceptions.
Senior running back Malcolm Roberts has a team-high 554 yards rushing, and his 11 touchdowns rank third in 12-6A behind Heights’ Re’Shaun Sanford (24) and Temple’s Samari Howard (12). Junior Craig Brown’s 374 yards and Richey’s 370 go toward the Bulldawgs’ 177.4 rushing average per-game output.
“You go against any team in this district, they are going to be loaded with athletes and anything can happen when you get on the field with athletes. We better show up and play. You better not pay attention to the records because you’re going to get yourself in trouble if you do,” Stewart said. “They may not have the record but I know (head coach) Jason Hammett, personally, and he’s a hell of a ball coach and he’s a competitor. They aren’t broke. We’ve got to go out there and play our best 48 minutes of football, and that’s all I care about.”
And in terms of a compete 48-minute display, Stewart said the Wildcats haven’t reached that threshold yet, even though his team has posted 50.4 points and allowed 17.3 during district action. The sixth-year head coach pointed to Temple’s slow start last week against Killeen as another example as to why the Wildcats can’t afford to stray from a tunnel-vision approach to Friday’s tilt.
“I wasn’t displeased per say on anything in particular, there just wasn’t a whole lot of consistency. Uncharacteristic penalties. Just sloppy at times. Sometimes it looked good. Problem is we are running out of opportunities to be able to get away with that and feel like, ‘You know what? We didn’t play well but we came away with a win.’ That’s not a good model to live by. We still haven’t put our best 48 minutes of football together and that’s going to be the challenge. I don’t focus on the scoreboard. I focus on if that’s the best 48 we can play. If it isn’t, what the heck are we waiting on?”
Temple, Harker Heights, Belton and Bryan have secured the postseason spots from 12-6A. Heights and Belton are bound for the 6A Division I bracket while Temple and Bryan are 6A-II.
The representatives from 11-6A also are set, with Duncanville and DeSoto as 6A-I schools and Cedar Hill and Waxahachie 6A-II.
Baring upsets Friday, the matchups appear to be Belton-Duncanville, Heights-DeSoto, Bryan-Cedar Hill and Temple-Waxahachie. If that all holds following Friday’s results, the Wildcats will host the Indians at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 12.
If Cedar Hill (5-4, 4-2) loses to Mansfield and Waxahachie (6-3, 4-2) upsets DeSoto, Temple would play Cedar Hill.
Temple junior linebacker Taurean York recorded 18 more tackles last week, boosting him over the 100 plateau for the first time in his career. The reigning 12-6A defensive MVP now has 110 stops, an average of 12.2 per game.
“Talk about uber-intelligent. I think some of them are just built different. I think they are wired different. Taurean York is wired different than most kids,” Stewart said. “You can literally go through an install meeting and 30 minutes later, he’s lining everybody up in front of him because it just clicks. It’s spooky at times, and, obviously, you have a coach on the field.”
With his 22nd and final carry late in the fourth quarter last week, senior running back Samari Howard barreled over a defender at the end of a 10-yard touchdown run that brought him even at 312 with former Wildcats standout Lache Seastrunk for the most points scored in a career. Howard’s next trip into the end zone will put him all alone at the top of the heap.
“He’s the consummate leader. That’s the kind of kid you want to get records,” Stewart said.
Howard, who’s totaled 1,263 yards rushing this season, just 3 shy of a new career high, has 14 total TDs after posting 22 a year ago and 13 as a sophomore for 49 overall. He is four touchdowns away from owning a program record in that department as well.
Temple’s defense has held its last three opponents to an average of 97.3 yards rushing. Faylin Lee and York share the district lead with four fumble recoveries. Lee is second on the team with 51 tackles, followed by Naeten Mitchell (44), Zion Moore (38) and Eric Shorter (36). Quarterback Reese Rumfield’s 22 touchdowns passing are second in 12-6A. Receiver Devan Williams has caught 10 TDs and is averaging 24.1 yards per reception, a league-best among players with at least 10 catches. Mikal Harrison-Pilot for the second straight season has at least one TD passing, rushing and receiving.