Few expected Copperas Cove to be in this position.

Perhaps even fewer believed in Temple, but here we are.

The two storied programs will meet tonight with second place in District 8-5A hanging in the balance. While many might have predicted the Bulldawgs and Wildcats would be contenders prior to the season, few could have seen this coming after both got off to slow starts.

Regardless of records, injuries, upsets, adversity or perceptions, the teams have emerged as serious threats, and that is why I love football and sports in general.

After splitting their first six games and stumbling to a 1-2 start in District 8-5A play, Bulldawgs head coach Jack Welch has his team back in playoff contention with the hopes of advancing to the postseason for a 10th consecutive season alive and well.

Temple survived a season-ending knee injury to starting quarterback and Baylor commit Chad President on the first snap against Southlake Carroll, but went on to win four of its next five games.

Now, with only two games remaining in the regular season, both are poised to not only make the playoffs, but also possibly embark on deep runs.

Who would have guessed? Outside of their respective fan bases, very few believed either would be here just a few short weeks ago, and with good reason.

Despite possessing a powerful offense, the Wildcats were 1-2 to start the season, and President’s injury seemed to be an obvious reason for Temple to slide in the standings. But they didn’t.

Copperas Cove was stunned by Killeen in its district opener, losing to the Kangaroos for the first time since 1995. Two games later, Midway eked out an overtime victory, sending the Bulldawgs into a precarious position in a parity-filled district.

Temple, on the other hand, was practically left for dead after President was lost for the season, but the Wildcats have scored at least 37 points in every district game, losing only to Midway.

With the exception of Shoemaker, it would be difficult to find anyone who doesn’t honestly believe these are the district’s top two teams behind the Panthers.

That is the beauty of sports, though. Nobody actually knows what it is going to happen.

It sounds dumb, and it is cliché, but that’s why teams play the games.

Killeen wasn’t suppose to beat Copperas Cove, but it did. Temple wasn’t suppose to sport the best offense in district play, but it does. Heck, Midway wasn’t suppose to lose to Shoemaker last week, but the Grey Wolves still pulled off the season’s biggest shocker.

Nothing is a given in the world of sports. Teams and players create their own destiny through determination, will and perseverance, and no two area teams exemplify this more than Copperas Cove and Temple.

Obviously, either the Bulldawgs or Wildcats will be returning home disappointed following tonight’s game, but I still wouldn’t count whoever it may be out just yet. In fact, outside of Ellison, I wouldn’t exclude any team from being possible playoff participants until the final buzzer sounds next week.

Much like last season, this district race will come down to the final games and perhaps the final moments of the regular season. I wouldn’t expect anything less, and I wouldn’t expect anything less than a great battle tonight between Copperas Cove and Temple.

Both teams know what it takes to survive adversity. Both have the offensive ability to climb out of any hole they might fall in, and both have head coaches who refuse to allow their teams to wallow in self-pity.

The Bulldawgs and Wildcats have displayed talent, grit, purpose, resolve, persistence, tenacity and commitment throughout the season, and tonight they will bring all those qualities to the same field for what should be a classic contest.

Temple has lost seven consecutive games to Copperas Cove in a streak stretching back to 2003, but in a season of unexpected twists, previous records really don’t matter. In fact, nothing really matters except what occurs between the lines on Friday nights, especially for these two teams in particular.

Nobody really expected Temple and Copperas Cove would be involved in such a high-stakes game just a few, short weeks ago, but even when many lost hope they could rebound, these two teams have never stopped believing in themselves.

Tonight, fans reap the rewards of their respective resolve with a drama- and intrigue-filled game that practically nobody saw coming.

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