Hornets, Cowboys set to collide today

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that a change has forced Blackwell’s football team to make some last-minute adjustments. It’s been happening all year.On Wednesday, it was announced that the Hor-nets’ playoff game against Grandfalls-Royalty would be played today in Rankin — 24 hours earlier than scheduled — due to icy weather forecasts for Friday.Blackwell (10-1) had to cancel three of its 10 regular-season games, managing to reschedule only one, so the shuffle is nothing new. And head coach Clint Lowry says his team looks forward to continuing its best playoff run in 17 years.“We’re pretty confident,” he said of the Hornets, whose 70-26 bi-district win over Lueders-Avoca was its first playoff victory since the 1996 season. “We went into this year with the expectation of doing better than we did last year (when Blackwell was 5-6 overall and lost in bi-district), and we’ve done that. They’ve been loose in practice.”However, Lowry knows it will take a huge effort to defeat Grandfalls-Royalty, which is also 10-1 and currently ranked No. 2 in Six-Man, Division II. The Cow-boys have won 10 straight and “are the quickest team we’ve faced,” he said. “We can’t have any boo-boos. We’ll have to stay on our blocks and hold them longer, and make good decisions,” said Lowry, whose team is ranked No. 10 in Division II. “I’m looking forward to (the game).”Grandfalls-Royalty, the District 6 champion, routed Loop 68-20 to begin the playoffs and hasn’t lost since falling to Water Valley 32-20 to begin the season.But Lowry, who coached G-R to the state quarterfinals in 2005, thinks that the teams match up pretty well in that they both lack size and rely on their quickness.Jayden Jones (1,381 yards during the regular season)leads Blackwell’s running game. Grandfalls-Royalty’s Jr. Marquez and Thomas Burns have combined to rush for over 1,500 yards, and have a TD every third touch of the football this season.“They can score from anywhere,” Lowry said. “Hope-fully we can control the ball and do what we need to do.”While Blackwell is having its best season in nearly two decades, Grandfalls-Royalty has every starter back from last year’s 13-1 team that made the state semifinals. The Cowboys were ranked No. 1 prior to the season by Texas Football magazine, and they also boast three players who were first team all-state a year ago — Marquez at running back, Burns at linebacker and Julian Helms at safety.Jones isn’t Blackwell’s only star. Matthew Lowry, son of the head coach, took over at quarterback this year and had 822 yards passing, throwing for 19 touchdowns on just 63 attempts during the regular season. Franck Cano had three rushing TDs against Lueders-Avoca. And don’t forget the defense, which coach Lowry said had its best game last week in holding L-A to just one score after halftime. Mason Magness led Blackwell with 82 tackles during the regu-lar season while Jones was right behind him, getting in on 77 stops.If Blackwell wins today, the Hornets could get another shot at Loraine, which beat them last season in bi-district. Loraine plays Dawson in Region II’s other semifinal today in Ackerly.Another win would send Blackwell to the state quarterfinals for the first time since the ‘96 team did it. Coach Lowry said he thinks his players are aware they are the first team to win a playoff game since then, but “they just want to play and get another trophy.”