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Two years after a winless season on the field, Black-wellâ€™s Hornets are eyeing a second straight postseason appearance heading into the 2013 season.
Clint Lowry immediately turned the Hornets into a contender when he took over the program last year, guiding the Hornets to a runnerup finish in District 8, Division II Six-Man and their first playoff trip in four years before losing 49-22 to Loraine in bi-district.
This year, just getting to the postseason will not be enough to satisfy Blackwell. Thatâ€™s because the Hornets are bringing back the core of last yearâ€™s squad after losing just three seniors.
There are high expecta-tions in other places as well. Texas Football magazine has Blackwell ranked No. 10 in Division II, a notch below Robert Lee, its District 8 rival.
Lowry returns seven players who received all-district honors, and four of them â€” running back-linebacker Jayden Jones (first team), cornerback Mason Magness (second team), safety Ted Chambliss (second team) and defensive lineman Franck Cano (honorable mention) earned all-region honors as well.
Jones rushed for 1,910 yards and 31 touchdowns on just 154 carries as a junior, and also recorded a team-high 154 tackles on defense while Magness had 110 tackles, Chambliss 98 and Cano 97 in 11 games.
In all, Blackwell has five of its six starters back on defense and four of its six offensive starters. Even the schedule â€” Blackwell has six of its 10 games at home, including the district opener with Robert Lee and season finale with Panther Creek â€” favors the Hornets.
â€śLast year, we talked ab-out earning respect and I think that we accomplished that,â€ť Lowry said. â€śNow itâ€™s time to back it up, and you back it up by playing well.
â€śThey got a taste of (the playoffs) last year. Every-body wants to win, but you have got to expect to win; thatâ€™s what good teams do. Once you get that, your level of play picks up.â€ť
The participation rate is also high. Of the 25 boys in high school at Blackwell, all but two play football.
â€śThis year, the system is in place for them,â€ť said Lowry, who became head coach just a few weeks before practices began last year.
â€śTheyâ€™re more relaxed and not as uptight, and they have higher expectations. How will we handle that? I guess weâ€™ll find out.â€ť
Lowryâ€™s son, Matthew, is the most notable addition. The younger Lowry, who transferred to Blackwell af-ter football ended a year ago, will be the quarterback and also start at cornerback with Chambliss on the other side. Magness moves to noseguard, with Cano and Kaleb Edwards the starting defensive ends and Jones at linebacker. Jones (tailback) and Edwards (fullback) will lead the rushing attack and Chambliss starts at end. He had 18 catches for 366 yards last season. Matthew Meyer at center and Wade Allen at guard anchor the line. Coach Lowry also has 2012 starter Ethan Andrews (50-of-82 passing, 727 yards, 11 TDs) at quarterback. Also expected to get playing time on offense this season are Magness at fullback, guard and end; Cano at running back; Brian Mink on the offensive line; and Oakley Anderson at fullback.
Those who will receive playing time on defense in addition to the starters are Allen, Anderson and Meyer at defensive end; Mink at noseguard; and Andrews at cornerback. â€śFortunately, weâ€™ve got some depth,â€ť Lowry said. â€śWeâ€™ve got eight seniors, and they know this is it for them. I expect us to be better than last year and I think the guys do, too.â€ť