Neither head coach Joseph Gillespie at Stephenville or his counterpart, Terry Gambill at Waco Midway, will have to say much to fire their teams up tonight.

Everyone headed to Panthers Stadium for the teams' 7:30 p.m. heavyweight showdown is well aware what is on the line - at least a share of the District 8-4A championship.

"This is the type of game we've worked toward all year," said Gillespie, whose club has rebounded from a 1-4 start by slamming its first three 8-4A foes by an average margin of 44 points per game. "Our first three goals every year in district are A. to make the playoffs, B. to be the No. 1 small school seed and C. to win the district championship. We've been inching closer and closer to all of those and now we have a chance to put a check mark next to all three."

The game means just as much to Gambill and his undefeated, eighth-ranked Panthers.

"We have four goals each year. We want to make the playoffs, win a district championship, practice on Thanksgiving Day and play into December," Gambill said.

Each team has already achieved their first goal - they both locked up playoff spots last week. That means the 21st trip to the post season in 22 years for Stephenville, a program Gambill has great admiration and respect for.

"Coach Gillespie and his staff do a great job," Gambill said. "It's so obvious watching this team that the players know exactly what to do in every phase of the game. Stephenville has been good for a long time, and when you look at the coaching staffs they have had there, it's easy to see why."

Gillespie is equally impressed with the job Gambill has done turning around the Midway program.

"Midway has a fundamentally sound football team that is very well coached," Gillespie said. "Coach Gambill was an assistant at (5A power) Allen, and since he's been at Midway he's done a great job with that program."

It doesn't hurt that Midway is stocked with talent and depth.

"They have great athletes, not only at the skill positions, but on their front lines, too," Gillespie said. "They have great size, and they have a lot of size. They suit up 65 or 70 players and they rotate them in and out."

Midway is led by quarterback Ryan Smith, a senior who has completed 75 of 112 pass attempts (67 percent) for 1,382 yards with an impressive 17 touchdowns to only one interception.

Smith's favorite target is Kevin Thomas, who has 25 receptions for 501 yards - better than 20 yards per catch - and eight TDs.

Sophomore B.J. Kelly stars on the ground for the Panthers, and should top the 1,000-yard mark early tonight. He enters the showdown with 995 yards and nine scores on just 93 carries.

Midway is first in 8-4A in team offense, averaging 471.6 yards per game. The Panthers have rushed for 273.1 yards per contest while passing for 198.5 yards.

The Midway defense is also tops in the league, allowing just 213.1 yards per game.  Eight opponents have combined to rush for just 620 yards against the Panthers, an average of just 77.5 yards per game.

That defense is led by defensive back Shakiel Randolph with three interceptions, and havoc-causing defensive lineman Beau Blackshear, a 6-4, 270-pound giant.

Stephenville running back Aiavion Edwards will also be looking to crack the 1,000-yard mark. He enters tonight's game with 919 on the ground.

Connor Washington has gone 140-245 (62.2 percent) for 1,604 yards through the air.

The Stephenville defense surrenders 296.9 yards per game and has allowed just eight offensive touchdowns in its last five contests. Jared Slemmons leads the way with 65 tackles while fellow inside linebacker Padyn Giebler has 54. Nose guard Russell Cole leads with 22 tackles for loss.

"I think it's a great match-up between the two unbeaten teams at the top of the district with at least a share of the district title on the line," Gambill said, adding that he believes the (approximately) 9,000-seat Panther Stadium will be sold out by game time. "It should be a great high school football environment between two good programs."

Gillespie couldn't agree more.

"This is one of those games you circle on the calendar a long time in advance because you know it's going to be a big one," Gillespie said. "We picked up a big confidence boost last week when we beat a good Killeen team that we feel like will play deep into the playoffs. Now we have a chance to get an even bigger win."

Whoever picks up the win will be picking up a coveted district championship, too.