TEMPLE — A great rivalry deserves a great game with a great finish, and Temple and Belton certainly did not disappoint anyone in Friday night’s showdown at Wildcat Stadium.
Quentin Johnston caught Jared Wiley’s 25-yard touchdown strike on Temple’s first play of the third overtime period to give the Wildcats a thrilling, highlight-packed 58-55 victory over the never-say-die Tigers in the teams’ first district clash since 2013.
Belton junior Logan Smith forced the third overtime with a 51-yard field goal and then gave the Tigers a 55-52 edge with a 39-yard field goal, but that left coach Scott Stewart’s Wildcats with an opportunity to win the game and they made the most of it.
Junior star receiver Johnston got open down the left seam and snared Wiley’s pass near the goal line for their third touchdown connection, sending Temple’s sideline and the jam-packed home stands into a state of delirium and leaving coach Sam Skidmore’s Tigers just short of their first win over the Wildcats since 2010.
Temple beat Belton for the sixth straight time. Despite squandering a 42-28 fourth-quarter lead, the Wildcats (5-0) survived and moved to 3-0 in District 12-6A.
Senior Connor Carothers produced a huge performance for Belton (4-2, 3-1) against a Temple starting defense that hadn’t allowed a point in its previous three games. He completed 27 of 46 passes for 464 yards and five touchdowns, with first-half interceptions by Temple’s Markel Reed and Roman Jackson.
Anthony Fairbanks made first-half touchdown receptions of 83 and 53 yards for Belton, and Anthony Brown had 12 grabs for 134 yards, highlighted by his must-have 33-yard score from Carothers with 13 seconds remaining to force overtime.
Wiley, a senior making his first quarterback start against Belton, was 20-of-39 passing for 366 yards and four touchdowns, with his first two interceptions. Johnston made five catches for 156 yards. His three TDs extended his season total to 12.
Just as it did in Temple’s 38-31 comeback win over Belton in last year’s season opener, this rivalry battle featured wild momentum swings. The Wildcats scored touchdowns on their first four possessions to build a 27-14 lead through the first quarter, only for the Tigers to seize a 28-27 halftime lead on Carothers TD passes of 53 and 12 yards to Fairbanks and Jose Perez, respectively.
The Wildcats’ offense slowed to a halt in the middle two quarters as Belton’s defense shut out Temple, which also held the Tigers scoreless in the third.
The Wildcats appeared to take command early in the fourth after Taliq Armstrong grabbed a Temple block of Smith’s 41-yard field goal try late in the third and returned it to Belton’s 20. Wiley found sophomore tight end Alex Rodriguez for a 5-yard touchdown pass. After a Belton penalty on Temple’s initial 2-point try, massive Wildcats defensive tackle Phillip Haskins rushed in for the conversion and a 35-28 lead.
Lineman Tre Colbert then blocked Smith’s rollout punt to set the Wildcats up at Belton’s 32, from which Wiley fired a TD pass to Johnston for a 42-28 Temple advantage with 10:14 remaining.
However, the outcome was far from decided. Belton drove quickly for Dean Blondmonville’s 4-yard TD run to pull within 42-35 with 9 minutes left.
The Tigers defense stiffened late and Belton got the ball back at its 14 with 1:08 left. Carothers’ passing plus a late-hit penalty marched Belton to Temple’s 33, then Brown caught a crossing pass and bulled across for the TD before Smith’s extra point with 13 seconds left forced overtime.
Blondmonville and Temple’s De’Jon Overton traded short TD runs in the first overtime, followed by a clutch 40-yard field goal by Wildcats sophomore Aaron Wagaman and Smith’s 51-yard bomb.