We Are All Fans And I Am No Different (Blackwell v Bronte)

Leman Saunders

Six-man expert
We Are All Fans:

I don’t do much writing anymore…most of my energy is focused on my daughter who is about to wrap up her second six-weeks of first grade. Traveling around watching and writing about the world of six-man has taken a back seat for me the last few years. As many know I am a proud Blackwell alum and my daughter will be a 5th generation alum when it comes time for her to matriculate.

Natural I am able to catch a few local games and do have a vested and rooting interest in the Blackwell Hornets…yet I do a really good job of compartmentalizing that when trying to cover and follow six-man football as a whole across the state. That being said…tonight I’m pushing my chests out a little farther after Blackwell’s 66-20 win tonight over Bronte.

It might not seem like much and you might be asking yourself “What’s the big deal?” To the outsider it looks like your run of the mill mercy rule six-man Friday night score, but to the folks in Blackwell…and if I may be so bold to say the folks in Bronte…it was a little more than that.

You see, Blackwell and Bronte are about 13 miles apart and share school district boundaries. Those boundaries in the past have been hotly contested…namely Oak Creek Lake which is owned by Sweetwater (Nolan County), but resides in Coke County. Some areas are Blackwell’s district and some Bronte’s. While Bronte is in Coke County, Blackwell is mainly in Nolan, but straddles the Coke County line. The two towns and schools are very closely intertwined.

For generations people from Blackwell and Bronte have wished they were able to do battle on the football field against each other…but they were in two different worlds…Blackwell six-man and Bronte eleven-man.

However, the two schools do have a little grid-iron history. The all-time record between Bronte and Blackwell coming into tonight was 3-3-2, all coming in eleven-man football from 1930-1933. Blackwell won the first two meetings in 1930 (19-0, 12-0) and the last time these two schools played was in 1933, again twice, with Bronte winning both games (68-0, 37-0). Blackwell dropped football in 1934 and didn’t bring it back until 1938 when six-man football had become an option. Bronte stayed eleven-man until 2018 when they finally made the move to six-man. Even though Blackwell did play eleven-man for four years (1948-51) they never played Bronte then and even though Blackwell wanted to and tried to schedule Bronte from 2018-2021, Bronte never wanted to play them. That all changed when the 2022-23 UIL football districts were announce…Bronte had dropped down to division two where Blackwell has always played and the two were placed in the same district.

Some of the best parts of my childhood were playing summer baseball in Bronte and some of the best friends I ever had were on those teams…and we always talked about how we wish we could play each other in football! Despite that Bronte to me was the antithesis of an eleven-man school belittling and looking down on the six-man school, knowingly or not…that’s how it felt. There always seemed to be an arrogance of “we are better than you because we play real football” coming from Bronte…justified or not that’s how it seemed to the folks of Blackwell. It was so pervasive a thought that I never in my life thought Bronte would ever play six-man football…in fact I lost a steak dinner bet with someone when they said Bronte would play six-man and my response was “they would drop football and be a basketball only school before they would do that.” (Im very glad they didnt!)

Knowing this game would happen, one of my old baseball buddies and I had talked about watching this game together and I was very glad I was able to take in Friday night’s game with one of my best Bronte friends. We sat together and talked football, analyzed our teams, cheered and jeered players and commented on coaching and referee calls…we had the quintessential Friday night sitting in the stands experience. In all honesty I thought it would be a close game even though I was hoping for a very lopsided 72-0 Blackwell victory. Adding to everything was the fact that this game held major district standing implications as the winner would likely be the runner-up and advance to the playoffs, so perceived rivalry aside this was a very important game.

The game was pretty competitive for the first half. Both teams had big plays and a few mistakes and Blackwell held a small 36-20 lead going into the locker room at halftime. I had seen Blackwell lose games they should have won this year (Aspermont, Robert Lee, Highland) and this is six-man football after all…a 16-point lead is not very comfortable... so it was still very clearly anyone’s game. Plus, Bronte had some athletes, namely a good QB-WR combo that had burned Blackwell a few times already. Even though Blackwell had the lead I was not at all comfortable.

In the second half Blackwell took control of the game and it was just a march to the mercy rule from there. Late in the third quarter Blackwell took a 50-20 lead and my friend and I, shaking a little from the cold breeze blowing through the bleachers on an already cold night, began doing what I call “six-man math”…counting and determining what has to happened to enable the 45-point mercy rule.

My daughter had joined us so to speak by this point. It was mini-cheer camp night and she was one of the many campers who had put on a halftime performance. With her night done she was cold and sat with us wrapped in my pea coat complaining and wanting to go. “Just two more Blackwell scores and we can go home…Well…two more touchdowns and some PATs that is”, I was telling her. Sure enough, not long after that Blackwell scored and made their 2-pt PAT kick…something they had struggled with all night…bringing it to 58-20 late in the third quarter. Then shortly after the start of the fourth quarter Blackwell managed to score again to bring the score to 64-20. This is known as the “dreaded 44 points” because if you are a fan, or parent, or anyone really, wanting to go home early the worst point differential in six-man is 44 points. My friend and I debated what Blackwell should do…go for 1-pt or try to kick and make the 2-pt conversion. I thought a second and remembering all those years of wanting to play Bronte, the eleven-man bias and arrogance that always seemed to come with it, I said rather playfully “Na…I’d kneel it and try to beat Bronte by 50.” To which we both had a good laugh as the Blackwell PAT kick sailed through the uprights to end the game and give Blackwell the win over Bronte in their first ever six-man battle and the Hornets’ first win over the Longhorns on the gridiron in 90 years!

To me the win exercised 90 years for wishing Blackwell had just the opportunity to play and put Bronte in their place and I know it did for a lot of other alumni. I am very happy Bronte decided to make the move to six-man and honestly wish them best success…but my lament is I wish they would have done it sooner....not only for the benefit of their program, but also out of the want and wish that we could have played them and I'm sure many Bronte alumni feel the same way! Maybe we have the beginnings of a great rivalry game. Next year the role might be reversed and I will happily congratulate my friends from Bronte as I would have if they would have won tonight…but man I am so glad they didn’t and Blackwell sent them home early.

Thank you for allowing me to be a fan and a homer this once!

note: Last time Blackwell beat Bronte was 10-29-1932, 18-0 at Blackwell…just about 90 years to the very day.
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I wanted to add a little more history of Blackwell and Bronte to this for those who might like that kind of thing...I think it provides a little more context maybe...

When highway 70 was first being paved Nolan County was able to pave their section first and paved it through Blackwell and stopped at the county line which brought more travelers to Blackwell, but not to Bronte as some travels would stop once the pavement ended…probably much to the ire of the citizens of Bronte. Another interesting fact is that during Blackwell’s peak we had a bank, however, during the Great Depression our bank merged with the bank in Bronte in a move said to help the two banks and while it is not known I have always heard to was to help he Bronte bank more than the Blackwell bank (partly due to the road not being paved to Bronte). Blackwell’s bank remained open for practical business, but the main office and banking was then after done at Bronte…which did not sit well with some in the Blackwell area. Ultimately the Blackwell bank closed up for good and I’m sure this created a little bitterness on some level for the people who lived through those hard times.

-Contract to pave the section of Highway 70 between Blackwell and Bronte was let and began in late 1932.
-Blackwell’s bank merged with Bronte’s on Texas Independence Day 1933.
One more thing...I wanted to congratulate the Blackwell Hornets on their win! You played hard and didn't fold when the game was close and Bronte put some pressure on and yall turned it on in the second half...I think this game was a turning point for yall...congrats
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