TEMPLE — Temple scored 43 points or more for the third time in three games this season and racked up 555 yards total offense, but the number that looked especially good to the Wildcats in Friday night’s District 12-6A opener was Harker Heights’ point total on the scoreboard at soggy Wildcat Stadium: 0.
Quick-strike Temple scored four touchdowns in the first 15 minutes to build a 28-0 lead, and the Wildcats’ swarming, hard-hitting defense limited the Knights’ struggling offense to 130 yards in a thorough, rainy 45-0 victory to begin the eight-game district schedule.
The Wildcats (3-0) smothered Heights (0-3) as they forced eight punts and recovered two fumbles while recording Temple’s first shutout since a 54-0 home win over Bryan on Sept. 11, 2015.
Coach Scott Stewart was displeased when his reserve players allowed two fourth-quarter TDs and were outscored 14-7 in the second half of last Friday’s 43-14 win against Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon (Mexico). His response was a grueling week of practice for the backups, and they answered the call by preserving Temple’s shutout.
“We practiced all week getting our 2s ready. We basically went overtime with the 2s because we needed them to get better,” said Wildcats senior defensive end TJ Franklin, a Baylor commitment whose crew permitted only 25 total yards and one first down in the first half.
After challenging his team during practices to finish stronger, Stewart got what he wanted.
“I loved the way we established the line of scrimmage. We fit it fast and we’re playing faster and faster every week,” Stewart said. “I was probably most proud tonight of our reserves. We installed what we called an ‘attack period’ – team after team. It was 2s against 2s and we beat the ever-loving snot out of each other. It looks like they learned their lesson.”
Temple’s running back tandem of senior De’Jon Overton and junior Anthony Jackson continued to shine with 301 yards and three touchdowns. Overton (166 yards on 16 rushes) scored TDs of 49 and 6 yards in the first 9 minutes, then Jackson (135 yards on six carries) sprinted for a 78-yard score to end the first quarter.
“I love it. That’s a running back’s dream. We feed off of each other,” Overton said of his partnership with Jackson, running behind a punishing offensive line. “Those guys are hard workers all the time.”
With senior backup Josh Murrell adding 99 yards on 20 carries to chew up second-half clock, the Wildcats compiled ground 370 yards.
“When it’s weather like this, we practice in it. The coaches want us to practice in conditions we might play in,” Overton said.
Temple had plenty of highlights in the passing game, too. Texas-committed senior Jared Wiley was 17-of-26 for 187 yards and three touchdowns: 24 and 22 yards to junior standout Quentin Johnston — they’ve hooked up for eight TDs this season — and 10 yards to junior Montavian Carlysle. Senior Nathan Garcia made seven receptions for 76 yards, and sophomore Aaron Wagaman kicked six extra points and a 37-yard field goal.
Overton set the tone with 3 minutes gone when he bounced outside and outran everyone for a 49-yard touchdown. Overton then capped a 62-yard drive on the next Wildcats possession by crashing in for a 6-yard TD and a 14-0 advantage.
Jackson showcased his pure speed when he closed the opening period by bursting off right tackle and dashing 78 yards, then Johnston secured his 24-yard touchdown from Wiley while falling to the turf in end zone. Wiley’s 10-yard TD toss to Carlysle 13 seconds before halftime made it 35-0.
Temple hits the road for the first time next Thursday when it plays at Shoemaker (0-2) at 7 p.m.