BELTON — Temple capitalized with its special teams early, forced a pair of turnovers and used a strong run defense to stymie Belton in a 50-15 win in a District 12-6A matchup between the Bell County rivals Friday at Tiger Field.
It gave the Wildcats (5-2, 4-0) their fifth straight win and kept the defending league champions alone atop the standings. It also marked their ninth consecutive victory in the Leon River rivalry game.
The Tigers (3-4, 2-2), meanwhile, will look to bounce back on short rest next week after their second straight loss.
Temple blocked two punts and got an interception from Kaleb Hill to set up a score as the Wildcats built a 28-2 lead midway through a hectic first quarter that saw the teams combine for 37 points in the game’s first 9 minutes.
Belton also blocked a punt that led to a safety during that time and recovered a Temple fumble but didn’t turn it into points.
Once the early craziness finally settled, it was Temple that came out with a commanding advantage.
“Well, the first play gave them all the momentum, and then I thought we had a little when we blocked the punt, and then we just gave it right back to them,” Sniffin said.
The Wildcats struck quickly on the game’s first play from scrimmage when Reese Rumfield found Tr’Darius Taylor for a 75-yard scoring pass down the middle of the field with 9 seconds elapsed from the game clock, and it gave Temple a lead it didn’t relinquish.
After the teams traded three-and-outs, Belton caught a break on a bad snap on Temple’s second series, which led to a Kage Carmichael blocked punt and a Tigers safety after the referees originally ruled it a touchback but then changed the call.
The play cut the gap to 7-2, but Hill intercepted a Ty Brown pass two plays later, returning it 44 yards to the Belton 15-yard line. Temple capitalized with Samari Howard’s 3-yard scoring plunge and a 14-2 lead with 7:37 remaining.
Belton’s next two possessions ended in blocked punts, the first of which led to a Howard 1-yard score and the second of which Temple’s O’Tarian Peoples picked up for a 2-yard scoop-and-score to move the Wildcats’ lead to 28-2 with 4:08 left in the opening frame.
Howard finished with a game-high 101 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s hard to keep all the noise out, and I think these guys did a great job mitigating some of that,” Temple head coach Scott Stewart said. “I thought they did a good job staying in that mid-range. Belton is a physical football team. I have to give them kudos. I thought we were more consistent tonight.”
Belton responded with its lone touchdown of the first half on a 69-yard scoring strike from Brown to Slade LeBlanc.
The Tigers’ Connor Whitman then forced a fumble that teammate Ke’Aundre Johnson recovered on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession, but Belton’s offense couldn’t capitalize, turning in another three-and-out after taking over at the Temple 40.
Other than Brown’s TD strike to LeBlanc, Belton struggled to move the ball in the first half, compiling only 24 yards and one first down on its other 25 plays.
Temple tacked on two more scores in the third, the last of which came on Tavaris Sullivan’s 1-yard plunge that was set up by Faylin Lee’s interception, giving the Wildcats a 50-9 lead with 52 seconds left in the frame.
“I thought our defense, once again, besides that first play with the blown coverage, they made them earn everything they got and they played their tails off,” Sniffin said. “But you can’t give them points and give them the ball with good field position and expect to be in the game with good teams.”
TEMPLE 50, BELTON 15
Temple 28 8 14 0 — 50
Belton 9 0 0 6 — 15
Tem — Tr’Darius Taylor 75 pass from Reese Rumfield (Danis Bajric kick)
Tem — Samari Howard 3 run (Bajric kick)
Tem — Howard 1 run (Bajric kick)
Tem — O’Tarian Peoples 2 blocked punt return (Bajric kick)
Bel — Slade LeBlanc 69 pass from Ty Brown (Zach White kick)
Tem — Mikal Harrison-Pilot 2 run (Tomas Torres pass from Howard)
Tem — Howard 1 run (Bajric kick)
Tem — Tavaris Sullivan 1 run (Bajric kick)
Bel — Mason Ramm 46 pass from Brown (run failed)
First downs 19 11
Rushes-yards 42-155 38-87
Passing yards 199 146
Comp.-Att.-Int. 13-19-0 6-17-2
Punts-average 3-26.6 5-22.2
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 10-87 2-25
RUSHING — Temple, Howard 25-101, Damarion Willis 8-31, Sullivan 5-20, Jalen Robinson 3-7, Taylor 1-7, Harrison-Pilot 1-2, Rumfield 1-(minus 4), team 1-(minus 5). Belton: LeBlanc 17-44, Elijah Warner 15-32, Brown 5-9, Seth Morgan 1-2.
PASSING — Temple, Rumfield 13-19-0-199. Belton, Brown 6-17-2-146.
RECEIVING — Temple, Taylor 3-89, Harrison-Pilot 6-61, Devan Williams 2-29, Kobe Smith 1-12, Michael Heckstall 1-8. Belton, Ramm 2-66, LeBlanc 1-69, Garrett Oliveira 1-9, Warner 1-8, Bryan Henry 1-(minus 3).