TEMPLE — It was under Friday morning clouds and intermittent sunshine at Wildcat Stadium instead of under Friday night lights. It was a scrimmage — don’t hit the quarterbacks, please — with altered rules and format instead of a regular-season game. It was played in front of a sparse crowd instead of a jam-packed stadium. And it was against the Killeen Kangaroos instead of the Belton Tigers.
However, Temple’s scrimmage against old rival Killeen was a necessary, beneficial step for the fourth-ranked Wildcats as they prepare to battle Belton in next Friday night’s season opener at Wildcat Stadium.
After the Wildcats scored three touchdowns and kept the Kangaroos scoreless in the scrimmage’s controlled portion, senior T.J. Rumfield — competing with junior Jared Wiley for the starting quarterback position — connected with Keion Johnson for a 55-yard catch-and-run TD to start the first quarter of timed action and later hit D’Yonte Heckstall in the back of the end zone for a 20-yard score.
Killeen matched the Wildcats with two touchdowns during timed action to forge a 14-all draw. The Roos’ starting offense answered Johnson’s long TD with Montego Muckelvaney’s 65-yard scoring reception from Marcellus Johnson,
and Killeen capped the 2-hour, 15-minute affair with Zion Love’s acrobatic 52-yard touchdown catch from Bo Buckley against Temple’s second-unit defenders.
The Wildcats’ touchdowns during the controlled portion came on Rumfield’s 24-yard pass to senior wide receiver Xavier Johnson, sophomore running back Anthony Jackson’s 75-yard sprint and junior Josh Murrell’s 6-yard rush. Left-footed freshman Aaron Wagaman was 5-for-5 on extra-point kicks.
It certainly was a mixed-bag performance, but Temple second-year coach Scott Stewart said the scrimmage was exactly what his Wildcats needed as they charge into meaningful games.
“It’s definitely ugly. It’s a scrimmage. The biggest room in the house is the room for improvement, and we got some things we can work off of,” said Stewart, who guided Temple to the 5A Division I state championship game in his first season as a head coach. “We flew around today and were physical. We had some big plays, and we gave up a couple on defense, which obviously we’ve got to fix.
“But all in all, it’s good to get a fresh look, bang around and get hit in the mouth a little bit. I think the kids were excited and I liked the energy. But we’ve got a lot of stuff to fix.”
The scrimmage included a scary moment when Killeen defensive back Brendan Dickerson was injured while making an awkward-looking tackle. Dickerson lay on the turf for 20 minutes while medical personnel and trainers attended to him. He was placed on a stretcher and carted off to a waiting ambulance. Killeen coach Neil Searcy said Dickerson was taken to a hospital for further observation.
“They took him for precautionary reasons. When he left he could move all his extremities. Any time you’re dealing with a kid with neck numbness, you always want to make sure you err on the side of caution,” said Searcy, whose Kangaroos host Round Rock Stony Point next Friday. “His helmet came off (on the play) and I think his helmet was underneath him and he got hit and they landed on him. It was one of those freakish kind of plays.”
On the only touchdown Killeen scored against Temple’s starting defense, Marcellus Johnson lofted a pass toward the left sideline for the 6-foot-4 Muckelvaney, who got position against senior cornerback B.J. Sculark and made a leaping catch. When Sculark fell, Muckelvaney raced in for the 65-yard score.
Rumfield (6-5, 210 pounds) and Wiley (6-6, 215) have had an ongoing competition to succeed Reid Hesse, Temple’s career passing leader. Wiley’s scrimmage highlights included completions of 45 yards to Heckstall and 17 yards to sophomore Quentin Johnston, but he played inconsistently overall and his running proficiency was largely negated by the stipulation that officials blew their whistles whenever a defender approached a quarterback.
Rumfield started Temple’s first series and his touchdown passes to Xavier Johnson, Keion Johnson and Heckstall totaled 99 yards. It wasn’t all great, though, for Rumfield, who was intercepted twice.
“We just wanted to perform to the best of our abilities and play fast and obviously score fast,” Rumfield said. “I’ve got to come here tomorrow and get better.”
If Rumfield earns the starting quarterback job, Wiley likely would shift to receiver and/or tight end to become another potent weapon in Temple’s passing game.
“You saw what I saw. As soon as one guy starts to separate himself, he does something boneheaded. Or as soon as one guy starts falling off, he’ll make two or three big-time throws,” Stewart said. “The 6 inches between the ears is critical. Both guys can play the position at a very high level. We’re going to evaluate film and I’d like to go into next week with a starter.”
That’s when Temple will shoot to beat rival Belton for the fifth straight time.
“I’ve got goosebumps right now just thinking about it,” Rumfield said. “It’ll definitely be special.”