Nolan Countyâs two six-man football teams named the Hornets are set for their annual battle, this time at Blackwell starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Once again, it will be the final non-district game for both teams.
Once again, it will be Division I (Highland) vs. Division II (Blackwell).
But Blackwell â unlike in most of the previous meet-ings â will be coming in as a slight favorite thanks to a 6-0 start this season.
Coach Clint Lowryâs Hornets are coming off a 78-0 homecoming win over Veribest that was called at halftime, due to six-manâs 45-point mercy rule.
It was just the latest in a string of impressive wins, though. Blackwell, which is ranked No. 12 in Division II, has also beaten a couple of top-20 teams in D-II (No. 13 Blanket and No. 17 Jayton) as well as D-I Lingleville (4-1) and Veribest, while posting three shutouts.
But Highland (3-3) has also gotten on a roll of late, winning three straight over Sands (56-42), Trent (63-14) and Lueders-Avoca (52-6) after an 0-3 start, so this yearâs game could one of the best in the series.
Highland lost to Motley County, Sterling City and Loraine, but could have easily won two of the games since their losses were by a total of just nine points.
To Highland coach Jeff Shelton, this game is different from the others due to the familiarity of so many of the people with each other.
In fact, Sheltonâs wife teaches at Blackwell and his stepson plays for them.
âWhen I do the family laundry on the weekends, I wash both blue and green, so itâs a game with a lot of familiarity for us,â he said.
âBlackwell is the most complete team weâve played this season. Their running game has been great the past couple of years and is now complemented with a great passing game. On defense they play a very intense, sic âem style that makes it a challenge to get plays to develop. Weâre going to have to play a perfect game to leave with a win. They are that good.â
But Highland hasnât been too shabby, either, in its last three games, winning the last two by the mercy rule.
âWeâve seen a lot of im-provement,â Shelton said. âEvery week weâve had players step up and get the job done when their number is called. Our progress is cer-tainly going the direction we want it to go, but we still have much work to do.â
Blackwellâs players donât lack for confidence, coach Clint Lowry said, and that represents a change from a couple of years ago.
âThey are expecting to win,â he said. âWeâre not just hoping to win. I think the players are starting to believe in each other.â
â(Highland) has a lot of tradition and they are well coached. I think this game will help us and help them also down the road. It will be nice to end the (pre-district season) undefeated, but it wonât be the most important thing,â Lowry said.
âTheyâll block well and tackle well. Weâll have to be at our best to beat them.â