Whether it’s in district or nondistrict, and whether it’s at Wildcat Stadium or Panther Stadium, the Waco Midway Panthers keep coming up with ways to defeat Temple. And for the Wildcats, that’s a very painful and frustrating feeling.
With at least a share of the District 12-6A championship at stake Friday night at Wildcat Stadium, unbeaten Temple expected to get the football back and drive for the go-ahead or tying score after Bryce Boland’s 27-yard field goal gave Midway a three-point lead with 4½ minutes remaining.
But after Midway had popped up high, short kickoffs throughout the evening, its ensuing kickoff was a low, skidding effort that bounced off a player on Temple’s front line before the Panthers’ Davieon Betts pounced on the ball at the Wildcats’ 43-yard line.
“It’s funny how with great teams, the ball bounces their way,” Temple coach Scott Stewart said.
Workhorse James Fullbright — who rushed 39 times for 226 yards and two touchdowns — and Midway didn’t score again, but they exhausted all but 38 seconds of the clock before the Panthers denied Temple’s desperate final possession for a 31-28 victory over the Wildcats, Midway’s 33rd consecutive district win.
“That was by far the best team we’ve seen. They were bigger and controlled the line of scrimmage. It’s been a while since people have done that to us,” Stewart said after playoff-bound Temple (8-1) dropped to 6-1 in 12-6A, tied with rival Belton (7-2, 6-1) for second behind Midway (7-1, 7-0), which is 5-0 against the Wildcats since 2012 and hosts Belton next Friday.
“I’m really proud of our kids. They played their guts out. Now we’ve got to manage it and use it. We’ve got to grow up and learn lessons. I want to go back to work and be very critical of ourselves.”
“Discipline,” dejected Temple senior safety Monto President Jr. said of what prevented his Wildcats from beating nemesis Midway. “We’ve got to let it go and use it as motivation.”
Temple concludes its regular season next Friday at Copperas Cove (6-3, 4-3), whose Bulldawgs are battling for 12-6A’s fourth and final playoff berth.
“I’m glad this game lived up to the hype,” said Midway coach Jeff Hulme, 3-0 against Temple. “It was two heavyweights and we got one big bounce. Temple deserves a ton of credit.”
Midway’s Za’Carius Murray intercepted a Jared Wiley pass and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown 41 seconds before halftime, and Nick Jimenez threw a 26-yard TD pass to Demarcus Degrate early in the third for a 28-21 Panthers lead.
Temple junior running back Anthony Jackson scored three touchdowns — a 3-yard first-quarter run, a thrilling 40-yard catch-and-run from Wiley as first-half time expired for a 21-21 tie, and a 2-yard rush early in the fourth for a 28-28 deadlock. However, Jackson’s heroics couldn’t overcome those of the 5-foot-7, 195-pound Fullbright. The powerful, hard-to-tackle senior’s 3-yard rumble on third-and-2 with 2:13 left essentially finished the Wildcats.
“We knew what was going to happen,” President said of Fullbright’s heavy workload.
“It was all fumes (at the end). I was dying,” the exhausted Fullbright said. “Temple’s a really good team.”
“He’s the heart of our team, an all-around great kid,” Hulme said.
Stewart absorbed blame for two situations where Temple got close but didn’t score. With the Wildcats leading 14-7 midway through the second quarter, they had fourth-and-2 at Midway’s 13. Instead of trying a field goal, Temple got into a power set and Midway stopped 300-pound defensive lineman Phillip Haskins for no gain. Halfway through the third, the Wildcats had fourth-and-goal from the 1 but the Panthers tackled De’Jon Overton for no gain.
“I left six points on the field. That’s 100 percent on me,” Stewart said. “I could’ve called a much better game.”