BELTON – Quarterback Vance Willis and running back Anthony Jackson won all 18 games they played together in two seasons at Bonham Middle School.
“Whichever one of us had the energy on that play, we took the ball,” Willis said.
For the two Temple seniors, it was just like old times against Belton in Friday night's rivalry showdown at Tiger Field.
Willis passed for 291 yards and four first-half touchdowns and rushed for a TD, and Jackson ran for two touchdowns and made a vital scoring reception before halftime as the relentless Wildcats pulled away to beat the Tigers 66-34.
Temple (4-1) compiled 581 yards total offense, matched Hewitt Midway for the District 12-6A lead at 3-0 and extended its winning streak over Belton (2-4, 2-2) to seven games.
“As soon as we got to executing, we just got to rolling. And when we start rolling and the momentum is on our side, we're hard to stop,” said Willis, who matched the career-best four touchdown passes he threw against Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon (Mexico). “We've got an offense that can score at will.”
Willis fired a 49-yard touchdown pass to Texas-committed Quentin Johnston late in the first quarter, connected with emerging junior AJ McDuffy on TD fade passes of 5 and 8 yards in the second period and hit a streaking Jackson down the right seam for a 26-yard score 21 seconds before halftime.
That capped Temple's staggering blitzkrieg of 21 points in less than 2 minutes to transform the Wildcats' tenuous 31-28 lead into a commanding 52-28 halftime advantage.
A first-year starter, Willis has improved significantly since he threw five interceptions in Temple's season-opening 35-29 loss at Round Rock Cedar Ridge.
“My reads are way better,” he said. “Like on that touchdown to Anthony, I saw the safety take our tight end and Anthony was wide-open. The safety usually takes the back. (Jackson) was just an extra route.”
After ripping through Killeen Shoemaker's defense for 179 yards rushing two weeks ago, Willis ran for 72 yards and a 4-yard touchdown against Belton.
“The game's starting to slow down for Vance,” Temple coach Scott Stewart said after improving to 4-0 against Belton. “He knew what to look for in Week 1; he just didn't always look at it consistently.”
The speedy Jackson scored 15 touchdowns last season, but he missed Temple's opener at Cedar Ridge with a hamstring injury and sat out the Wildcats' comeback win over Shoemaker with an injured shoulder. Temple's open date gave Jackson a much-needed opportunity to recuperate, and he racked up 112 yards on nine carries, including TDs of 9 yards in the first quarter and 10 yards immediately after halftime.
“I missed it. It felt good to be back out here, watching everybody have fun,” Jackson said, smiling. “To watch everybody come together . . . we're going to be pretty good.”
Said Stewart: “Anthony worked hard trying to rehab. He felt really good all week long. It's fun to see a kid healthy. When you've got all your bullets, that's fun.”
Sophomore standout Samari Howard started at running back for Temple, contributing 60 yards and a 7-yard TD.
“We felt the right thing to do was to start Samari because of what he's accomplished,” Stewart said. “The grace Anthony accepted that with, he did nothing but encourage Samari all week long. Good things happen to good people.”
With Belton understandably paying extra attention to Johnston, McDuffy made the Tigers' injury-depleted defense pay with two touchdowns on perfectly thrown fade passes from Willis.
“AJ is special. He's hungry for the ball,” Willis said. “He's coming up now and is fixing to get eyes on him.”