Chad President had the light in his eyes.
It made the catch a bit harder. Still, the sophomore wide receiver leapt in the air and pulled the ball down in the end zone with 16 seconds left.
“We like games like this so we can dig deep and fight,” President said after his catch lifted the Wildcats to a 55-48 victory over Ellison in a back-and-forth game Friday at Leo Buckley Stadium.
“It just had to happen,” said Temple coach Mike Spradlin. “That is what I love about our kids right now. When we have to have it and make plays; we make them.”
But, early on, the big plays were going Ellison’s way.
The Eagles had just scored to take a 12-7 lead over Temple and had recovered the ball on the kickoff. Deon Burch pooched the ball high into the air and Kaimen Roberson, who also rushed the ball 23 times for 178 yards and two touchdowns, leveled Temple’s Jeremy Hemphill and fell on the football, giving the Eagles a first down at the Wildcats 30-yard line.
They didn’t score on the series. But it was the momentum Ellison needed. It forced Temple into a three-and-out and the Eagles took over at the 50-yard line. Six plays later, Ellison scored on a 5-yard by Burch.
“Ellison is doing a lot of good stuff right now,” Spradlin said. “Even against Midway we noticed how they moved the ball up and down the field. … I think they are finding their stride and doing things better than I have seen in my almost two years.”
Temple answered after a 66-yard run by quarterback Zach Allen and a 5-yard touchdown run by Keith Buhl. But again, Ellison got the ball at its own 40-yard line after a facemask penalty on the kickoff and drove down the field again. Roberson broke off a 38-yard run down to the Temple 7. And on the next play he almost made it into the end zone. However, the senior fumbled the football at the 1-yard line.
It didn’t matter. His offensive line bailed him out.
Senior Marin Biletic fell on the football in the end zone and put Ellison up 26-13 with 58 seconds left.
“No turnovers and 48 points,” McBryde said. “The kids played great. … We knew based on the way they played Shoemaker and Johnny Jefferson that they were going to put all their linemen and their backers on Isiah (Cowan), which allowed Kaimen to do a great job tonight.”
With time winding down in the half, the Eagles tried to pooch kick again. This time it didn’t work and the Wildcats took over at the Ellison 45. After two deep incomplete passes, Allen finally found what he was looking for — a 35-yard touchdown pass to Kaelan Nearly that pulled Temple within 26-20. The Wildcats took the lead again on its first possession of the second half when Allen hooked up with President for a 45-yard touchdown pass with 9:38 left in the third quarter
“We just made too many mistakes on the defensive side,” McBryde said.
After that, the two teams just seemed to trade scores.
Ellison quarterback Trent Jones scored on a 1-yard keeper. Zach Allen found Chris Minter on a 5-yard touchdown pass. Buhl, who finished with 19 carries for 149 yards, scored on a 13-yard run with 9:39 left in the fourth quarter. Then Roberson scored from seven yards out only 18 seconds later.
It took four minutes for Temple to respond, when Buhl scored again. This time the senior went up the middle for the 37-yard touchdown.
Ellison answered, though. Roberson scored his second touchdown on the night with 4:18 left and Cowan, who ran 28 times for 172 yards, got the two-point conversion to tie the game at 48-48.
Temple, which ran 51 times for 471 yards, ran the rest of the clock down on the ground.
And then with 30 seconds left it went to the air.
Allen missed his first two throws and, with 16 seconds left, found President to win the game.
“The line did a good job of giving me time,” Allen said. “Chad and I are on the same page and he made a great catch and the rest is history.”