Just one week ago, the Dickson Comets and Madill Wildcats seemed almost like two peas in a pod.
Each had a quarterback capable of making plays with his arm or his legs. Both possessed strong linemen on both sides of the ball.
Most importantly, both were 4-0, and in contention for second consecutive district wins.
The Wildcats (5-0, 2-0 District 3A-4) did their part, earning a thrilling 19-17 win over Purcell, but Dickson (4-1, 1-1) stumbled for the first time in the 2012 season, falling 28-6 to Pauls Valley.
Now the two squads, one still unbeaten and the other looking to regain form, will match up in a crucial 3A-4 battle Friday at Dickson.
The Comets fell behind early last week, dropping into a 28-0 hole by halftime, but coach Jeremy Reed felt the deficit had more to do with several key errors by Dickson than from any major advantage Pauls Valley had.
"First half, we had a couple busted coverages, some snapping errors that resulted in turnovers and gave them a short field," Reed said. "You can't do that against good teams."
The team showed its resolve in the second half, shutting out Pauls Valley and tacking on a score, but the lesson is still one of correcting errors for Reed.
"If we could eliminate our mistakes, we can beat anybody," Reed said. "We had an array of things go wrong, but everything is fixable."
Madill coach Milton Cooper, for his part, is certainly not doubting what Dickson is capable of.
"It's not a surprise to me what they've done so far this year," Cooper said. "He's got them believing, they've bought into a system and I'm not surprised where they are."
However, there are some who might be surprised at exactly what Madill has accomplished to this point. The Wildcats have emerged as the favorite in 3A-4, under the leadership of quarterback Paten Bond. Bond stacked up over 500 yards of total offense in a shootout win against Plainview two weeks ago, before serving as the hero in the win over Purcell, connecting for a 7-yard touchdown pass to Ke'ven Davis with seconds to go in the game.
"He's an athlete and can do so many things," Cooper said. "He can run, he can throw, he's just a good athlete and a better individual."
Cooper sees the battle in the trenches between two strong and physical teams as the key to what happens in Friday's game.
"That's where it's going to be won, up front," Cooper said. "(Dickson) really concerns me defensively, because they're so quick and aggressive in the trenches.
"Whoever holds out the longest will come away with the win."