Seven years ago, this would have simply been called an intrasquad scrimmage.
But on Thursday night, there's a playoff berth on the line.
John Marshall and Centennial — the two schools that once formed the original John Marshall High School before splitting in 2007 — meet Thursday at Star Spencer's Twidwell Stadium for the fourth and final playoff spot in District 3A-3. The winner goes to the playoffs, and the loser starts basketball season.
When the district was split into two schools in 2007, the John Marshall-Centennial game became a natural rivalry. The Britton Bowl, as it's known.
And every good rivalry needs a defining moment. Maybe this will be it for the Bears and Bison.
Because there are more layers to this game than the playoff bid.
The bragging rights between kids who came up playing on the same little league fields is ramped up with the high stakes.
And this marks the first meeting of Don Willis and his former player, Rashaun Woods, as head coaches.
Willis is in his second year at Centennial, while Woods is in his first at John Marshall. But 15 years ago, Willis was coaching Woods during his rise to stardom as a Millwood wide receiver, before heading to Oklahoma State, then being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
“A lot of people have asked about that, but we can't focus on that,” Willis said. “Right now, I'm just trying to get us to the playoffs. It's exciting, and he might be looking forward to going against his old coach. But we have to stay focused on the game.”
While the coaching matchup can be downplayed, there's no ignoring the magnitude of the game for both programs.
Centennial hasn't been to the playoffs, and John Marshall hasn't been since going 9-3 and reaching the second round in 2009 under Bruce Troxell.
“It's very exciting to know that all it takes is one more win to make it to the playoffs,” senior lineman Isaiah Palmer said. “We gotta keep that Britton Bowl trophy at home. We've just got to fight and play all four quarters, like our coaches teach us.”
Centennial quarterback Malcolm Mitchell Jr. has been the primary focal point of the offense. But while both teams have their individual playmakers, each coach points to team growth as the key to getting them in the playoff hunt this year.
“Our team's overall understanding of the game of football has been the key,” Woods said. “Understanding where they're supposed to be, and knowing why they're doing the things we tell them to do, that's what we've been doing, and what we need to continue to improve.
“In my mind, win or lose, we've accomplished a lot this year, and I'm proud of them either way.”
But the players aren't thinking about losing.
“I haven't been to the playoffs since I've been in high school,” said John Marshall senior Devion Smith, one of the team's top playmakers at receiver. “Some of those guys (at Centennial) are my friends, some of them are my cousins. But we're just trying to battle and get the ‘W.' Two teams going at it trying to get that spot in the playoffs.”