Temple Wildcats Face Seasoned Aledo Bearcats Team for State Championship
Every week has been a new test for Temple, with many experts picking Temple to be at home this Saturday watching the game on TV like everyone else, but Temple's players and coaches would like to finish this thing, just the same.
Temple has used a swarming defense and high octane offense to fuel this drive to Saturday's 5A Division 1 State Championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The pregame starts at 11am, with kickoff scheduled for just after noon. It certainly feels like an old-west high-noon showdown between two very potent offenses.
Aledo's story is well-known. The Bearcats have won 4 out of 5 state championships, and they're once again loaded with FCS talent all over the field. Coming off a championship season that saw Aledo set the national record for points scored (over 1,000 if you're counting), Aledo fell short of that number, but not by much, ending up at #2 in the national record books for points scored in a season.
Whether it's 3-year starting QB Luke Bishop throwing the ball to all-universe WR Ryan Newsome, or Jess Anders IV running the rock, Aledo has scored at will. Add on top of that a defense with a stud at CB and a nose-tackle with 100+ tackles on the year (not a misprint), and Aledo seems unstoppable. The Wildcats, however, have been hearing that for quite a few weeks.
Some naysayers thought the Temple Wildcats wouldn't see the 2nd round this postseason, facing a healthy A&M Consolidated team that many had picked to win it all during preseason prognostications. Blowout.
Stratford's enormous size and phenomenal RB Rakeem Boyd's 400+ yards rushing. Double-digit win.
Ridge Point's dominant defense was then supposed to put an end to this high-powered offense. After scoring more in the 1st half than Ridge Point had given up during an entire game all season, Temple used the leg of Cole Martin to advance.
George Ranch and their equally-high-powered offense was the next team picked to send Temple to offseason workouts. Temple shut down, and shut out, that powerful offense until late in the 4th quarter and a 21-point lead.
Vandegrift and their white-hot offense was the next team picked to outscore the Wildcats. After all, they ran the same offense (and even have a former Temple assistant running the show) and had a Yale-bound QB to give the Temple defense a taste of defeat. One basketball score later, the Wildcats have a date at Jerry World Saturday at noon against the next team to knock off the blue-front/white-back crew from Temple.
In the words of Head Coach Mike Spradlin, "If it's all the same, we'll show up and play the game, anyway".
Each week has presented a new challenge, and each week Temple has advanced. From last-second field goals to win it, to playing the 3rd-stringers after 882 yards of offense, the Wildcats have found a way to win and advance each week. There's no more advancing. This is where it ends. Win or lose.
This is also the end of the road after 28 years in the broadcast booth for Gene Pemberton. I've seen the love Temple fans have for Gene, and it's been a lot of fun during this playoff run to see Gene get that one more game in the booth. This will be it for Gene. We'll have him back at home games next season for halftime segments, but Gene is retiring after 28 seasons and (now) two state championship games.
Temple QB Chad President has willed (and carried) his team to victory throughout the season, but it's certainly not a one-man show. RBs Jeff Carr and Marques Hatcher have also played their best at the biggest moments this season. Carr had 163 yards by halftime last week, and Hatcher nearly eclipsed the 300-yard mark (287). President hasn't been forced into throwing the ball very often, but he's been very good to great when needed.
President put the ball in the air rarely against Vandegrift, but he was near perfect in doing so. Even when he's struggled early in games this postseason, including a stretch against Ridge Point that saw President start the game 1-4 with 2 INTs, he's come back to make the biggest plays when needed. He hasn't run the ball often in the postseason, but when he's done it, he's made huge plays for 1st downs, TDs and long runs.
Temple's faced with its biggest challenge of the season, and it's up to more than just the offense to make big plays. After a mid-season stretch that left the Wildcats' defense without a single forced turnover in 3-4 games straight, Clint Cole, Marquelle Davis-Ponce and the linebacker duo of Ty McCorkle and Quinton Smith have made opposing offenses pay for mistakes.
Individually, the Temple defense doesn't have that game-changing stud at a single position. What they have is a collective group of players running 20-deep that can make an impact in the game any given play. The Law Firm of (Gilberto) Hernandez & (Sergio) Hernandez is an undersized wrecking crew going up against offensive linemen that outweigh them by sometimes 100 pounds or more.
They're not the only linemen making an impact, however. Ends Taquon Graham and Ethan Brown have collapsed the pocket more times than an oversized smartphone. The players that rotate in at all positions on the defense have come up with big plays, as well. Dennis Jordan returned a fumble for a TD in the postseason from his back-up DE position.
I said it (not like that's a huge deal considering the players are the ones that have backed it up) at the beginning of the season that injury or ego were the only things that could stop Temple, and they've stayed grounded and treated every game with utmost importance. I said (and they, once again, backed it up) at the beginning of postseason that, despite the headlines the offense receives, the defense will be the side of the ball to win a championship.
Without the play of the defense, this postseason run would have ended weeks back. It's because of forced turnovers and big plays on 3rd and 4th downs that the offense has been able to score the number of points scored. It'll be that way on Saturday. If the offense hits a point where the uber-talented Aledo defense manages to slow down the Temple offense, it'll be up to the defense to keep the score as-is until President, Carr & Co. have a chance to rev it back up.
Saturday's game will begin with a pregame time of 11am from AT&T Stadium in Arlington with a noon kickoff. You can hear the game on K 101-7 & NewsRadio 1400 KTEM. You can also listen online at K1017FM.com or KTEMnews.com, and you can download the free Radio PUP app for tablets and smartphones.