Quarterback Zach Allen was raised believing in ‘Blue-front, White-back’ magic. The Temple senior knows last season’s success was no fluke. One of the most storied and tradition-rich programs in Texas, Wildcat football is back.
“Temple’s always had a rich tradition and unfortunately, the last couple of years, we had kind of fallen off. Coach (Mike) Spradlin came and he really turned the program around,” said Allen, who’s committed to Syracuse. “Obviously, going 6-5 isn’t the ideal, but we made the playoffs, got into the playoffs for the first time in a couple of years.”
After a 1-9 season in 2010 and a 1-4 start in 2011, the Wildcats won five straight games to close out the regular season and made the playoffs for the first time since a first-round loss in 2008. With a playoff berth this season, Temple would become one of just three teams in the state to have 40 playoffs in school history, joining Amarillo (50) and Plano (46).
“It’s definitely neat to have that opportunity. We have a great class this year, we have a lot of great seniors that are unbelievably talented and we believe this is the year to do it if we’re going to do it,” Allen said. “That’s something this class wants to do and be known for it.”
Allen finished 12th out of 25 at the Elite 11 quarterback national finals in California over the summer following a 12-5A all-district first-team season in which he threw for 1,671 yards and six touchdowns with just a pair of interceptions.
In district play alone, Allen, a Rivals.com three-star recruit, threw for nearly 1,000 yards and would’ve had the Wildcats on the cusp of a district championship if not for 12-5A-opening losses to A&M Consolidated and Copperas Cove by a combined 10 points.
Last year was a far cry from 2010’s 1-9 finish that was only salvaged with an 11-6 win over Shoemaker in Week 8. After six years as the Temple head coach, Bryce Monsen stepped down with a 19-43 record and Spradlin was hired in February 2011.
“When we were 1-9, we worked, but didn’t work as hard as Coach Spradlin is pushing us. He’s taking it to another level,” said Freddie Johnson, a third-year starting offensive lineman who’s committed to Southern Methodist.
The Wildcats lost their first two district games 52-33 to Pflugerville Connally and 62-51 to Georgetown despite having leads in both games before Spradlin earned his first win at Temple with a break-through 31-27 win over San Antonio Churchill before the open week.
“When we played our first nondistrict games, I guess we were still in that 1-9 mode,” said the 6-foot-2, 298-pound Johnson. “Then once we felt like we were better than those teams, we just had to learn how to finish. Once we learned how to finish, we got out there and we did our job.”
The results weren’t immediately apparent. Temple lost its first two District 12-5A games — 40-33 to Consolidated and 49-42 to Cove — before hitting its hot streak. The Wildcats won five straight beginning with a 40-30 win over Harker Heights before a 24-3 loss to eventual regional semifinalist Longview.
“The Churchill game, Week 3, was our first win with Coach Spradlin and I really felt like that was the changing point because we had been so close the first two games and we blew it,” Allen said. “Getting that win was a huge confidence booster.
“Knowing that we could win, seeing it, getting it in the win column really changed things around for us and just made us feel like we couldn’t be beat and we had what we want going on.”