RANKIN — After winning the coin flip, Blackwell elected to receive the ball to start Thursday’s Six-Man Division II regional playoff against Grandfalls-Royalty.
Only one problem. The Hornets failed to recover the onside kickoff and the Cowboys scored to go ahead 6-0. And it got worse.
Grandfalls-Royalty — ranked No. 2 in Six-Man Division II — tried and recovered two more onside kickoffs, and scored after both of them, to take a 21-0 lead before the Hornets finally got possession.
Blackwell never recovered from that disastrous start, as Grandfalls-Royalty (11-1) advanced to the state quarterfinals with a 57-8 mercy-rule win. The Cowboys will face Loraine, which defeated Dawson on Thursday.
Blackwell, which trailed 41-0 before scoring its only touchdown in the second quarter, finishes 10-2 — the school’s most successful football season in 17 years.
Head coach Clint Lowry said his team had prepared itself all week for the onslaught of onside kicks, which Grandfalls-Royalty attempted after all but two of its eight touchdowns.
“They made the plays and we didn’t,” he said.
Blackwell finally recovered a kickoff on its fourth attempt and drove to the Grandfalls 5.
However, the Hornets were forced to turn it over on downs and Grandfalls scored again, upping its lead to 29-0 with 5:06 still left in the first quarter. It was 35-0 entering the second period after the Cowboys scored on a 65-yard pass from quarterback Gilbert Nunez to Thomas Burns.
“We got a little momen-tum on our first series and it would have helped us a little if we’d put it in,” Lowry said. “But they’re a really good team.
“We’ve played some good teams, but they’re definitely the best we’ve seen. They’re good. “They’re stinkin’ good.”
Blackwell finally scored when Mason Magness caught a 25-yard pass from quarterback Matthew Lowry with 5:44 left in the second quarter. Wade Allen added the kick to get Blackwell within 41-8, giving itself hope for a comeback. But Grandfalls-Royalty dashed those hopes with two more scores, the last with 1:21 to play in the second quarter that ultimately ended the game prematurely.
Normally a run-oriented team, Blackwell gained all but 30 of its 144 yards with its passing game after being forced to throw the ball more than usual. The Cow-boys held the Hornets to less than two yards a carry on 17 attempts, and also came up with a pair of pass interceptions.
Matthew Lowry was 8-0f-17 through the air, with Magness catching three for 48 yards and Jayden Jones four for 27.
Eight seniors suited up for the last time — Jones (43 yards rushing), Magness, Matthew Lowry, Ted Cham-bliss, Kaleb Edwards, Ethan Andrews, Brian Mink and Oakley Anderson.
“They’re great kids, special kids,” said Clint Lowry, who is Matthew’s father. “They’v got good attitudes.
“Getting to coach them, and coach my son, has been special. I think the world of them. We’re district champs and bi-district champs. I told them to be proud of what they’ve accomplished.”