Shortly after the opening kickoff Friday night at Merrill Green Stadium, Bryan and Temple stopped treating their season finale like it was a meaningless game.
They played it like the Vikings and Wildcats always do, and it wasn't decided until a fourth down play with 6 seconds left. On fourth-and-goal at the 7-yard line, Zach Allen's pass skipped off Mar'Quette Wilson's hands in the back on the end zone and Bryan survived with a 35-31 victory.
They didn't lead in the game against Temple (1-9, 1-6 District 12-5A) until Nate Jones' touchdown with 1:51 left in the fourth quarter, a tackle-breaking, 29-yard run that provided the final margin of victory. It was the fourth touchdown for Jones, who rushed for 181 yards.
"From an offensive standpoint, we did a nice job of blocking people and we ran really well," said Bryan coach Bob Bellard, whose team rushed for 500 yards. "Our level of play and intensity of play will have to pick up if we have a chance next week [in bi-district], but right now I think we have a chance."
Bryan (6-4, 4-3) moves into a Division I bi-district game next Saturday in Corsicana against DeSoto.
Temple almost rode to a victory Friday on the arm of sophomore Zach Allen, who completed 14 of 25 passes for 276 yards and three scores.
The Wildcats' final drive, which started at their 21, was aided by a late hit penalty and a 14-yard scramble by Allen to the 7. Johnny Childs, who had what appeared to be a game-clinching interception go through his hands for a reception by Jeviah Amos, came back with a pair of deflections, one of which almost led to an interception.
Yet Allen, a sophomore, nearly had the completion to Wilson for the game-winner for a Temple team that recovered three Vikings fumbles and executed a successful onside kick to open the second half.
Temple needed every play to counter Bryan's 1-2-3 backfield punch of Jones, Chris Watson and Kevin Jefferson.
"Gosh, it was a great high school football game," Temple coach Bryce Monsen said. "We had every chance to win the game. We made some plays but Bryan made a few more. I'm very proud of them."
"Sometimes we made things pretty hard on ourselves, but at the same time, you've got to tip your hat to Temple," he said. "They made a lot of plays tonight. There are a lot of things we are going to be upset with tonight when we watch the film, but we've been very happy with the film sometimes and lost ballgames. I'm happy to get the victory and go on to next week."
On a night when the spectacular was routine, Jefferson had the most exciting play, sweeping right then reversing field and shooting up the middle on a 51-yard run to the Temple 1. It set up Jones' first touchdown run that tied the game at 7-7.
But Bryan was forced to come from behind all evening, with Jones doing most of the keeping up.
When it wasn't Jones it was Chris Watson who had the spotlight, picking up 172 yards on 12 carries, including a 62-yard run on third down form his own 19. Watson fumbled to end that drive, but the Bryan defense forced a turnover and Jones had the final three carries on a 46-yard drive for the go-ahead points.
Allen hit scoring passes of 44, 71, and 22 and ran for one touchdown. His 71-yarder to Greyson Wooten was wide open and Wooten had to wait on the ball on the right sideline. Bryan safety Brian Cune raced over to try to make the play, but Wooten stepped over his lunging tackle attempt to break free.
Temple moved ahead 21-14 in the second quarter when Wildcats senior receiver Robert Benford caught a 51-yard pass to set up Allen's touchdown.
It took Bryan 21 second to strike back. Jefferson had a 35-yard run and Vikings sophomore quarterback Chris Johnson, who played the entire game, ran up the middle for the final 26 yards to tie the game at halftime, 21-21.