Tricky Wildcats

Temple’s Jordan Lee makes a one-handed touchdown grab on a pass from Tyler Hannon against Aledo’s Caleb Primera (13) and Patrick Peek (6) during Saturday’s game in Arlington.

ARLINGTON — Not known for a wide array of trickery in its schemes, Temple opened up the playbook and fired everything it had at Aledo to fuel a second-half rally Saturday afternoon that gave the Wildcats a fourth-quarter lead.

Aledo provided the final salvo in the form of a last-minute touchdown for a 49-45 victory in the Class 5A Division I state championship game, but at least Temple left AT&T Stadium without the burden of any unused ammunition in its barrel.

“The plan wasn’t to leave anything in the bag,” Temple coach Mike Spradlin said.

With the No. 1-ranked Bearcats (15-1) holding a 35-17 halftime lead, the fourth-ranked Wildcats (13-2) successfully executed a surprise onside kick in the third quarter and a double-pass for a touchdown in the fourth to give themselves a chance at capturing the program’s third state title.

“You can’t call stuff just to call it, but those were two things we thought we’d have an opportunity to do,” Spradlin said. “The onside kick was something we’d talked about that we’d find that (right) moment to do.”

The moment came immediately after Marques Hatcher’s 9-yard touchdown trimmed Temple’s deficit to 35-24 with 1:56 left in the third. On the ensuing kickoff, Wildcats kicker Cole Martin popped the ball high into the air, and teammate Travelle Latouche made a leaping grab of it 19 yards downfield along the left sideline.

“You have to hand it to Temple, because they have a pretty extensive kickoff scheme,” Aledo coach Steve Wood said. “They do a lot of things with their kickoff, and we worked on it extensively. Our guy just thought it was going out of bounds, and their guy fielded it.”

A risk that — had it not been executed properly — would have halted the Wildcats’ momentum and given the Bearcats great field position near midfield, instead led to Hatcher’s 5-yard TD run that brought Temple within 35-31 going into the final quarter.

“If you get beat by a touchdown or get beat by 20, it is what it is,” Spradlin said. “A loss is a loss, and we wanted to win.”

Still down by four points, trailing 42-38 midway through the fourth, Temple dialed up the double-pass play to grab the lead for the first time since late in the opening quarter. Facing third-and-7 at the Bearcats’ 40-yard line, Wildcats quarterback Chad President threw a backward pass toward the left side to receiver Tyler Hannon, who unleashed a pass deep down the sideline. Fellow receiver Jordan Lee reached behind him and over the head of Aledo cornerback Isaiah Mallory to tip the ball forward before snaring it on his way into the end zone, putting Temple in front 45-42 with 5:50 to go.

“We had to move Isaiah from running back to cornerback this week, and he hadn’t had the reps at cornerback that you’d like a guy to have to play in the state championship,” Wood said. “They run the old double-pass on us, and he took the bait a little bit.”

The Wildcats’ lead held up for 5 minutes, before Bearcats quarterback Luke Bishop scored from 6 yards out with 47 seconds left to foil Temple’s enterprising comeback attempt that had erased an 18-point deficit.

“I mean, I certainly wouldn’t want to come out here and get my tail kicked,” Spradlin said. “Did I want to be in a great game? Yes. But did I want to be on the other end of it? Yes.”

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