(Temple Wildcats Facebook photo.)
(Temple Wildcats Facebook photo.)

AUSTIN –  The Temple Wildcats used a versatile offense with a suffocating defense to control Richmond George Ranch and defeat the Longhorns 28-14 to win the Class 5A, Region III championship. The color seen at the Kelly Reeves Complex was predominantly Wildcat blue.

Chad President tossed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Chris Minter; Jeff Carr and Marques Hatcher combined for 276 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The defense shut down one of the most prolific rushing attacks in the state to advance the Wildcats to their first state semi-final match since 1993.

The Wildcats (12-1) will play Leander Vandegrift (12-2) next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in San Antonio at the Alamodome.The winner of that contest will advance to the state championship game on Dec. 20th at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

George Ranch came into the contest averaging 372 yards rushing, 460 yards total and 40 points a game. It was a different story when they ran into a relentless Wildcat defense that surrendered a mere 146 yards on the ground and two late touchdowns after the outcome of the contest had been determined.

The Wildcat defense made a statement in the first half forcing the Longhorns to punt the ball on four of their five possessions as they picked up only 3 first downs and 81 yards total offense.

Temple threatened to get on the board first with their first possession, driving down the field to the Longhorn 25 yard line. However, on third down, quarterback Chad President’s pass was intercepted at the 5 yard line.

Both teams remained scoreless through the first quarter; that was not a familiar situation for either team.

Early in the second quarter, sophomore safety Ashton Logan delivered a bone jarring hit on Longhorn quarterback Timon Nolan. After a few minutes, he walked off the field under his own power but did not return.

The Wildcat offense took  possession with 7:24 remaining in the half. President picked up 17 yards on a quarterback keeper and then found Aaron Freeman on a 20 yard pass. Freeman had 3 receptions for 65 yards for the day. That would set up Carr for a 35 yard touchdown sprint giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead with 6:19 remaining in the half.

On Temple’s next possession, a holding penalty forced the Cats into a 3rd and 13. President once again responded by finding Freeman;  this time for 30 yards and a first down. On the next play, President, who was  8 of 16 for 118 yards passing, found a wide open Chris Minter at the 5 yard line. Minter walked in untouched giving Temple a 14-0 lead with 2:20 left in the half.

Temple threatened again when Marquell Davis-Ponce stripped the ball from George Ranch running back Darius Anderson. Jalen Rios recovered for the Wildcats on the Longhorn 24 yard line.

From the six yard line, two false start penalties and a holding call forced the Wildcats to attempt a 32-yard field goal. The kick was wide right, sending  the Wildcats to the locker room up 14-0.

George Ranch came out in the third quarter hoping their top rusher Xavier Marks could spark their offense. Marks had been averaging 115 yards per game. On this day, the Wildcat defense held Marks to 14 yards on 12 carries. On the second play of the third quarter, Temple’s Ethan Brown crushed the speedster Marks forcing the ball loose, and this time Davis-Ponce recovered at the Longhorn 16 yard line.

The Wildcats were primed to put the game out of reach, but following another holding penalty had to settle for a field goal attempt. Cole Martin’s kick from 38 yards was  wide of its mark.

Both defenses remained strong until midway in the fourth quarter when Temple’s offensive line began to wear down the Longhorn defense. That’s when Hatcher, who had 144 yards on 21 carries, ripped off back-to-back 20 yard runs.  The second run was to the end zone giving the Wildcats a 21-0 lead with 5:52 remaining.

George Ranch did respond as Darius Anderson scored from 16 yards out, putting the Longhorns on the scoreboard 21-7. Anderson finished with 153 yards on 20 carries.

George Ranch attempted an onside kick with 4:06 left but the ball rolled quickly out of bounds setting up the Wildcats at midfield.

Temple would only need two plays to score once again as Hatcher ripped off runs of 25 and 27 yards to give Temple a 28-7 lead, sealing the Wildcat victory with 2:14 left in the game.

George Ranch did not give up and scored late on a Stone Harris TD reception from Antonio Jackson. Once again, their onside kick attempt failed.  In victory formation, QB Chad President took a knee twice and time expired.  The Wildcat faithful continued the boisterous, impassioned celebration for their Class 5A State Quarterfinal Championship.