TEMPLE — The Midway Panthers and Temple Wildcats engaged in a worthy battle of Central Texas heavyweights on Friday night.
Midway landed the decisive punch in the fourth quarter when quarterback Tanner Mordecai went deep over the top of the Temple defense and wide receiver C.J. Williams out-jumped a Wildcat to make the reception in the end zone, lifting Midway to a 40-28 victory at Wildcat Stadium.
Mordecai’s game-winning connection with Williams covered 41 yards as Midway retook the lead with 2:31 left in the fourth quarter. The Class 6A Panthers (3-0) led Temple (2-1, ranked No. 3 in 5A) from late in the first quarter to the middle of the fourth.
“We were going to take a shot at it,” Midway coach Jeff Hulme said about Mordecai’s go-ahead touchdown pass to Williams. “It was two great players going at it. Our kid (Williams) was just able to make a play and come down with it.”
Temple had a chance to win it with a final drive, but Wildcats quarterback T.J. Rumfield had to retreat to recover an errant snap at his own 3, limiting the Wildcats’ opportunity to turn the momentum.
Then Midway defensive back Grant Parnell intercepted Rumfield’s pass on third-and-21 and the Panthers iced the win.
Following Parnell’s return to the Temple 2, Midway running back Marcus Johnson tacked on a two-yard touchdown run for the Panthers’ final tally.
Johnson rushed for 76 yards and two touchdowns, all in the second half after he replaced an apparently injured James Fullbright.
Midway broke a 14-14 halftime tie by driving 75 yards on its opening possession of the third quarter.
Mordecai, who passed for 196 yards, completed a pair of key passes to Williams and D’Ante Thomas to spark the drive. Johnson finished it with a 16-yard touchdown run to put the Panthers in front, 20-14.
Midway grabbed a 13-point lead when Mordecai hit Demarcus Degrate for a 77-yard touchdown on which Degrate broke away from a Temple defender and ran away from the Wildcats.
But Temple came roaring back as running back De’Jon Overton scored on a 17-yard touchdown and Rumfield connected with Xavier Johnson for a 15-yard touchdown.
Following the Rumfield-to-Johnson score, Temple kicker Aaron Wagarman’s extra point put the Wildcats in front 28-27 with 4:20 remaining.
Midway had to convert a fourth-and-two from its own 31 to keep the go-ahead drive alive, but Mordecai ran and reached the ball just far enough to keep the Panthers’ hope alive.
Midway defeated Temple for the second straight season. In 2016, the Panthers lost their first two contest before notching a home win against the Wildcats in Hewitt.
Temple began the game with a well-executed drive as running back Zion Leach opened up with a 13-yard run to near midfield.
Rumfield took over from there as he connected with wide receiver Kelon Johnson for a 17-yard gain to the Midway 33. On the next play, Rumfield found Xavier Johnson open in the middle of the field and Johnson eluded the Panthers defense for a 33-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
Midway answered with a methodical drive with Fullbright leading the way. Fullbright ran seven times for 37 yards on a 55-yard touchdown march. He converted a fourth-and-two from the Temple 37 with a 10-yard run, and later finished it with a one-yard scoring dive.
The Panthers’ defense bowed up after Temple’s opening drive as Midway held the Wildcats to five first downs and no more points until halftime. The Panthers forced a pair of turnovers as safety Jack Hicks intercepted a Rumfield pass and linebacker Tacoda Goodall recovered a fumble.
Tanner Mordecai is competitive in everything. But if he had to choose, outside of football, …
Mordecai led a 62-yard touchdown drive to give Midway a 14-7 lead with 1:13 left in the first quarter. The Midway quarterback ran for 22 yards into Temple territory, then found Williams for a 17-yard strike to the Temple 28. Mordecai and Williams connected twice more to move the Panthers to the Wildcats’ 6, setting up Mordecai’s 1-yard touchdown plunge.
However, the Panthers’ QB struggled passing the ball in the second quarter as he failed to complete a pass in the period and gave up a pair of interceptions.
Mordecai’s first interception bounced off the hands of a wide receiver, allowing Temple defensive back Markel Reed to run under it with no one between him and the goal line. Reed sprinted 75 yards for a touchdown to tie it.
Temple defensive back B.J. Sculark came up with the Wildcats’ second interception of the first half, setting up the Temple offense at the Midway 26 with 14 seconds left before the break.
But time ran out on Temple’s chance to score by the end of the second quarter. Rumfield threw an out pass to running back De’Jon Overton, but the Midway defense held up Overton and the clock expired before Overton stepped out at the Panthers’ 4.