Prior to the start of the season, this game was circled on many fans’ calendars.

For the past several years, Copperas Cove and Midway have been heavy favorites to win the district championship with the winner between the two going on to claim the title.

This season was expected to be more of the same.

Then, the Bulldawgs suffered five consecutive losses to start the season, and the Panthers lost their first three contests, causing many to think the matchup had lost its luster.

Think again.

After losing its District 12-6A opener to Killeen, Copperas Cove (2-5, 2-1) is on a roll with back-to-back victories, and Midway (3-3, 2-0) is undefeated in district play.

While the teams’ records are not what many thought they would be, the showdown carries the same significance as in years’ past, and Copperas Cove head coach Jack Welch knows defeating the Panthers will be as difficult as ever.

“I consider Midway a playoff team,” he said, “so this is like a playoff game for us, and it will let us see where we stand and how much we’ve grown. We’re ready, and we’re excited.

“It’s not a do-or-die game, but it is a good marking point. We’re fighting for a playoff spot, and that is our No. 1 goal, and if we win this game, that puts us in the driver’s seat for a spot.”

To emerge with a victory tonight, however, Welch believes the Bulldawgs must control the clock and keep the ball out of the Panthers’ hands.

Midway possesses a balanced offense, averaging 39 points per game, but Copperas Cove posted 95 points in its two wins thanks to a strong running game.

Last week against Ellison, senior Antonio Lealiiee rushed for 291 yards on 29 carries, and in a 59-52 win against Belton, Kylan Herrera ran for 121 yards, while teammate Marcus Brumfield added 133 rushing yards.

Although neither team started the season the way it hoped, Welch believes the growing pains were beneficial for both programs.

“As you watch Midway each game,” he said, “you can see the moves they are making. You can see the change in personnel and alignments and things like that, and it’s the same thing for us.

“We both opened the season against some really stiff competition, but I think that has made both teams better.”

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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