COPPERAS COVE — Temple had a plan, and there was nothing Copperas Cove could do to stop it.
The Wildcats proved why they are District 8-5A’s top rushing offense by running at will against the Bulldawgs, finishing the game with 418 yards on the ground en route to clinching a playoff berth by beating Copperas Cove for the first time in a decade.
“It feels great to know we can go out there and have success doing exactly what we want to do,” Temple quarterback Chase Truelove said. “It feels like all the practice is paying off perfectly.”
After going into halftime tied 30-30, Temple dominated the second half, running for 233 yards while holding Copperas Cove out of the end zone until less than 90 seconds remained in the game and the outcome was already practically ensured.
Along with securing a postseason appearance, the Wildcats kept the hopes of winning a district championship alive entering next week’s regular season finale against Killeen.
“We’ve found some stuff that we like,” Temple head coach Mike Spradlin said of his offense, “and it happens to be an offensive line, two pretty good running backs and a dang good quarterback. … This is a big win for Temple High School and for these kids. It’s the first time this has happened in a while, and it is a big, big win for us.”
The last time the Wildcats (6-3, 5-1) beat Copperas Cove was late in the 2003 season, when Temple’s 20-19 victory triggered a four-game, season-ending losing streak after going undefeated through the first six games. It was also the last season the Bulldawgs failed to reach the playoffs.
There is a possibility destiny could repeat itself.
With the loss and the Kangaroos’ victory against Ellison, Copperas Cove (5-4, 3-3) fell out of the playoff picture, sitting in a two-way tie with Killeen for fourth spot. Due to the Kangaroos’ win over the Bulldawgs earlier in the year, however, Killeen owns the tiebreaker.
“It has got to be huge,” Copperas Cove head coach Jack Welch said of his team’s upcoming game against Harker Heights. “We’ve got to hope Temple wins (against Killeen) and we win.”
Copperas Cove jumped out to an early 12-0 lead as quarterback Manny Harris, who completed 31 of 49 passes for 394 yards, delivered a pair of touchdown passes to Hunter McVeigh and Phillip Baptiste, but Temple junior Clint Cole recovered a blocked extra point and took it all the way to the end zone to pull the Wildcats within 10 points, 12-2.
The play sparked an offensive outburst by Temple as Jeff Carr scored on a 72 yard run before the Wildcats’ defense forced a punt, setting up a five-play, 50-yard drive capped off by Marques Hatcher’s 8-yard touchdown run, giving his team a 16-12 advantage with 5 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first quarter.
“The blocked (extra point) got me going,” said Carr, who finished with a game-high 199 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
Bulldawgs kicker Jayson Stanley connected on a 25-yard field goal late in the first quarter, but Carr scored soon after, catching a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chase Truelove, extending the Wildcats’ lead to 23-15.
In addition to passing for 115 yards, Truelove carried the ball 17 times for 122 yards and tow touchdowns, but Harris was on point passing, and it did not take long for Copperas Cove to tie the score at 23-23. Baptiste, who finished with 212 receiving yards, completed a four-play, 60-yard drive with a 46-yard touchdown from Harris, who then was on the receiving end of a successful two-point conversion pass from McVeigh.
The offenses finally slowed down over the final seven minutes of the first half as Shaq Fluelen and Hatcher each recorded short scoring runs to create a 30-30 halftime tie.
But almost everything went Temple’s way after halftime.
“The thing I’m really proud of is we overcame a little adversity,” Spradlin said. “I was real proud of our kids doing that when it looked like things weren’t going our way in the first quarter.”
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org