LEANDER — Dominick Thompson wasted little time picking up his first interception of the 7-on-7 season.
And the Temple senior could not have picked a better time.
Thompson scored on a second-play interception, setting the tone for the Wildcats’ surprising defensive showing Friday at the 7-on-7 State Tournament at Southwest Williamson County Regional Park.
“The team lives on energy. So once they see the captain get a pick, take it back and score, that gets them going, that gets them ready to play, get ready for the next play,” Thompson said.
In a game that is most often a shootout between high-scoring offenses, Temple held its first two opponents to just 35 points combined and gave up just a single second-half touchdown in wins over Spring Westfield and Mercedes. Temple lost to a machine-like Arlington Bowie team in the teams’ final pool play game of the day, but finished the second day of the tournament among 32 teams still vying for the state championship.
The Wildcats play El Paso Montwood at 9:15 this morning in a first-round championship bracket game. The winner plays the winner of Houston Stratford and Cy Ranch at 10:15 a.m. The loser is eliminated.
“The thing we’re talking a lot about right now is just our team thing,” said Temple head coach Mike Spradlin, who was able to watch the games, but not allowed to coach per UIL rules. “The defense came through with some big plays, and that’s how you feed off each other.”
Belton won one of its three pool games and will compete in the consolation bracket. The Tigers play Jersey Village at 8 a.m. looking to better their finish last year when they fell one game shy of playing for the consolation championship. The Belton-Jersey Village winner plays the winner between Cedar Hill and Houston Reagan at 10:15 a.m.
“I feel like, all of these guys come to our 6 o’clock workouts, so waking up that early is not going to be a big deal to them, so I feel like we’re going to come out pretty refreshed and I think we’ll make a pretty good run tomorrow,” said Belton quarterback Shane Stafford.
Temple quarterback Chad President finished with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. He had three touchdown throws to Erick Arizmendi in the Wildcats’ 32-21 win over Spring Westfield. Arizmendi also caught two scoring passes in a 34-14 win over Mercedes, a game that President threw all three of his interceptions during a four-possession span between the third and fourth quarters. Chase Truelove scored the go-ahead touchdown on an interception return after President’s final pick.
Deangelo Behl caught three touchdowns for Temple and three other players each had one.
After winning their first two, the Wildcats trailed Bowie 42-13 at halftime and lost 61-34 to finish second in the pool.
“Honestly, we played really well, except for the first half of the Bowie game, today,” Spradlin said. “I was proud of our kids coming back in the second half — we competed hard in the second half. I thought, defensively, today, we were really, really good. I thought we played very, very well except for a (single) half of this whole deal.”
Stafford threw 12 touchdowns to six different players and had just three interceptions. Andre Ewing caught four TDs and Arrian Concepcion had three.
Stafford had four touchdowns to four different players in the Tigers’ 47-32 loss to Arlington, a game that slipped away from Belton in the second half. But the Tigers regrouped and held on for a 28-26 win against Mission Sharyland before losing to Pasadena Memorial 27-24 on the final play of the game.
“This whole team is just a group of competitors and we just wanted to win so bad, so we kind of just had a group discussion, said that we want to play well and deep tomorrow, we’ve got to really come out the next two games and play strong,” Stafford said. “I thought we did, that even though we lost the last game — it was a nail-biter.”
The Tigers took a 27-24 lead late in the game against Memorial following Stafford’s second touchdown to Ewing that was set up by an end zone interception by Chase McCosham.
But Memorial answered with an eight-play drive that finished with the game-winning touchdown just before the final horn.
“We had a little bit of pressure, but pressure’s the game,” Ewing said. “Pressure is what pushes you to drive, that’s what pushes you to win, that’s everything. Without pressure, what’s everything for?”