Photo via Cowboy Parks, TexasHSFootball.com

With all the buzz right now going on with six-man football, due large in part to ESPN, I decided to head north on I-35 from Waco and make a visit with Coach Terry Crawford and the Abbott Panthers. The Panthers are coming off of a State Championship in baseball, which joins their 2015
State Championship in football. Abbott will be young this season and likely face some growing pains, but like Crawford said, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

Abbott head coach Terry Crawford – Photo via Cowboy Parks, TexasHSFootball

TexasHSFootball: With all the coaching changes every season, how have you been able to stay at Abbott this many years?

Coach Crawford:​ ​The​ ​grace​ ​of​ ​God,​ ​with​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​luck​ ​I​ ​found​ ​a​ ​community​ ​where​ ​I​ ​fit, it​ ​wasn’t​ ​the​ ​intention​ ​when​ ​I​ ​came​ ​here​ ​like​ ​any​ ​other​ ​coach​ ​I​ ​expected​ ​to​ ​climb​ ​the ladder​ ​and​ ​chase​ ​the​ ​higher​ ​ground​, ​but​ ​you​ ​just​ ​get​ ​somewhere​ ​and​ ​you​ ​just​ ​fit.​ ​Every time​ ​there​ ​was​ ​an​ ​opportunity​ ​to​ ​leave​ ​I​ ​felt​ ​like​ ​it​ ​was​ ​a​ ​lateral​ ​move​ ​or​ ​a​ ​step​ ​down,​ ​then the​ ​next​ ​thing​ ​you​ ​know​ ​I’m​ ​not​ ​able​ ​to​ ​climb​ ​the​ ​ladder​ ​anymore​ ​because​ ​I’m​ ​labeled​ ​as a​ ​six-man​ ​guy,​ ​and​ ​that’s​ ​fine​ ​with​ ​me.

TexasHSFootball: Do you feel events like the six-man Super Saturday get your team more exposure starting the season?

Coach Crawford:​ ​You​ ​know,​ ​yes​ ​and​ ​no. Once​ ​upon​ ​a​ ​time​ ​it​ ​did​ ​because​ ​it​ ​was​ ​the only​ ​one​ ​and​ ​it​ ​was​ ​what​ ​everyone​ ​in​ ​the​ ​state​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​do.​ ​Now​ ​days​ ​it’s​ ​kinda​ ​watered down​ ​because​ ​there​ ​is​ ​so​ ​many​ ​of​ ​them​ ​out​ ​there ​that​ ​all​ ​eyes​ ​are​ ​no​ ​longer​ ​on​ ​Hico, Texas.​ ​One​ ​of​ ​the​ ​reasons​ ​we​ ​do​ ​like​ ​it​ ​is​ ​because​ ​if​ ​you​ ​make​ ​a​ ​deep​ ​run​ ​you​ ​gotta​ ​learn to​ ​play​ ​at​ ​odd​ ​times​ ​and​ ​Hico​ ​makes​ ​you​ ​play​ ​at​ ​an​ ​odd​ ​time;​ ​it​ ​makes​ ​you​ ​play​ ​on​ ​a Saturday​ ​and​ ​there​ ​is​ ​a​ ​possibility​ ​that​ ​you​ ​will​ ​play​ ​early​ ​or​ ​in​ ​the​ ​middle​ ​of​ ​the afternoon.​ ​The​ ​reality​ ​is​ ​that​ ​if​ ​you​ ​make​ ​it​ ​to​ ​the​ ​state​ ​championship​, ​you​ ​will​ ​probably play​ ​an​ ​early​ ​game​ ​and​ ​the​ ​kids​ ​need​ ​to​ ​know​ ​how​ ​to​ ​respond​ ​to​ ​that.

TexasHSFootball: What did it feel like to finally win a state championship?

Coach Crawford:​ ​You​ ​know​ ​it​ ​was​ ​really​ ​neat​ ​and​ ​I​ ​told​ ​a​ ​coaching​ ​friend​ ​of​ ​mine that​ ​I​ ​wished​ ​everyone​ ​could​ ​experience​ ​that,​ ​and​ ​he​ ​said​, ‘coach,​ ​you​ ​know​ ​if​ ​everyone could​ ​experience​ ​it​ ​then​ ​it​ ​wouldn’t​ ​be​ ​so​ ​special.’​ ​It​ ​was​ ​nice​ ​and​ ​I​ ​actually​ ​got​ ​caught​ ​up in​ ​relaxing​ ​a​ ​little​ ​bit​ ​because​ ​now​ ​we​ ​had​ ​achieved​ ​that,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​had​ ​to​ ​refocus​ ​myself​ ​into the​ ​same​ ​drive​ ​that​ ​I​ ​had​ ​to​ ​get​ ​there.​ ​I​ ​think​ ​that​ ​it​ ​will​ ​mean​ ​more​ ​to​ ​the​ ​kids​ ​and​ ​the fans​ ​of​ ​this​ ​community. ​I’m​ ​proud​ ​of​ ​it​; ​by​ ​all​ ​means​ ​I’m​ proud​ ​of​ ​it,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​think​ ​I​ ​would have​ ​been​ ​ok​ ​ending​ ​my​ ​career​ ​without​ ​one,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​have​ ​to​ ​worry​ ​about​ ​that​ ​no​ ​more.

TexasHSFootball: Do you believe there are benefits to having a huge rivalry, like y’all do with Aquilla?

Coach Crawford:​ ​Oh​ ​yeah,​ ​definitely. ​I’m​ ​so​ ​old​ ​and​ ​been​ ​here​ ​so​ ​long​ ​that​ ​I remember​ ​when​ ​we​ ​had​ ​two​ ​rivalries​ ​within​ ​eight​ ​miles; ​Bynum​ ​hated​ ​us​ ​and​ ​Aquilla​ ​hated us.​ ​I​ ​think​ ​last​ ​year​ ​is​ ​a​ ​perfect​ ​example​ ​of​ ​that. I​ ​believe​ ​we​ ​were​ ​a​ ​much​ ​better​ ​team than​ ​Aquilla,​ ​but​ ​the​ ​score​ ​was​ ​close​ ​so​ ​as​ ​we​ ​tell​ ​our​ ​kids​,​anytime​ ​going​ ​into​ ​that​ ​game you​ ​can​ ​throw​ ​the​ ​everything​ ​out​ ​the​ ​window​ ​because​ ​will​ ​power​ ​comes​ ​into​ ​that​ ​game. It’s​ ​happened​ ​to​ ​us​ ​in​ ​the​ ​past​ ​where​ ​we​ ​haven’t​ ​been​ ​as​ ​good​ ​as​ ​them​ ​and​ ​we​ ​played them​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​better​ ​than​ ​we​ ​should​ ​have​ ​because​ ​you​ ​just​ ​don’t​ ​want​ ​to​ ​lose​ ​to​ ​them.

TexasHSFootball: What do you feel is the biggest misconception about six-man football?

Coach Crawford:​ ​That​ ​it’s​ ​not​ ​real​ ​football. ​I’ve​ ​been​ in ​it​ ​long​ ​enough​ ​and​ ​when​ ​I​ ​first got​ ​in​ ​there​ ​was​ ​zero​ ​respect,​ ​it’s​ ​just​ ​a​ ​joke​ ​and​ ​coaches​ ​from​ ​the​ ​other​ ​levels​ ​would look​ ​and​ ​say​ ​that’s​ ​not​ ​real​ ​football.​ ​I​ ​remember​ ​sitting​ ​in​ ​a​ ​clinic​ ​at​ ​Lubbock​, ​Texas​ ​and​ ​a college​ ​football​ ​coach​ ​came​ ​to​ ​speak​ ​to​ ​us​ ​and​ ​when​ ​he​ ​was​ ​finished​, ​I​ ​leaned​ ​over​ ​to​ ​the people​ ​next​ ​to​ ​me​ ​and​ ​said,​ ​’I​ ​really​ ​think​ ​he​ ​thought​ ​he​ ​was​ ​talking​ ​to​ ​a​ ​group​ ​of​ ​youth
flag​ ​football​ ​coaches.’​ ​Year​ ​after​ ​year​ ​you​ ​find​ ​stories​ ​of​ ​people​ ​that​ ​become​ ​addicted​ ​to this​ ​game​ ​and​ ​make​ ​long​ ​trips​ ​just​ ​to​ ​watch​ ​a​ ​good​ ​six-man​ ​game.​ ​I​ ​have​ ​guys​ ​from​ ​the Metroplex​ ​all​ ​the​ ​time​ ​that​ ​drive​ ​down​ ​here​ ​just​ ​because​ ​they​ ​want​ ​to​ ​see​ ​a​ ​good​ ​game.

TexasHSFootball: Does the shortage of referees concern you and have y’all been affected by that?

Coach Crawford:​ ​We​ ​haven’t​ ​been​ ​affected​ ​to​ ​the​ ​point​ ​where​ ​we​ ​have​ ​had​ ​to​ ​move games,​ ​but​ ​to​ ​go​ ​a​ ​long​ ​ways​ ​away​ ​to​ ​find​ ​a​ ​crew​ ​to​ ​call​ ​a​ ​home​ ​game,​ ​yes;​ ​the​ ​situation does​ ​concern​ ​me​ ​because​ ​without​ ​referees​ ​then​ ​our​ ​game​ ​doesn’t​ ​exist​ ​anymore. Society​ ​says​ ​that​ ​things​ ​go​ ​from​ ​the​ ​top​ ​down​ ​so​ ​regardless​ ​of​ ​if​ ​an​ ​official​ ​wants​ ​to​ ​call a​ ​six-man​ ​game​ ​or​ ​not​, ​the​ ​chapters​ ​are​ ​oriented​ ​towards​ ​the​ ​larger​ ​schools​ ​and​ ​it’s something​ ​we​ ​definitely​ ​need​ ​to​ ​be​ ​concerned​ ​about.​ ​Coaches​ ​play​ ​a​ ​role​ ​in​ ​that.​ ​Guys
don’t​ ​want​ ​to​ ​do​ ​it​ ​anymore​ ​because​ ​coaches​ ​are​ ​pretty​ ​hard​ ​on​ ​them. ​I’m​ ​one​ ​of​ ​those guys​ ​who​ ​was​ ​pretty​ ​hard​ ​on​ ​them​ ​early​ ​in​ ​my​ ​career​ ​and​ ​I’ve​ ​made​ ​a​ ​conscious​ ​effort​ ​to back​ ​off​ ​some; still​ ​have​ ​my​ ​moments​ ​but​ ​they’re​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​fewer​ ​than​ ​before.

TexasHSFootball: Have you been surprised by the number of teams, both public and private, that now play six-man football?

Coach Crawford:​ ​No,​ ​not​ ​really​. Like​ ​I​ ​said,​ ​I​ ​feel​ ​people​ ​get​ ​into​ ​it​ ​and​ ​start​ ​to​ ​​realize that​ ​it’s​ ​really​ ​a​ ​very​ ​competitive​ ​game​ ​and​ ​schools​ ​that​ ​are​ ​smaller​ ​see​ ​that​ ​they​ ​can​ ​do it​ ​and​ ​so​ ​I’m​ ​not​ ​surprised​ ​that​ ​more​ ​people​ ​are​ ​doing​ ​it. It’s​ ​an​ ​addiction​; ​it’s​ ​basketball on​ ​steroids.

TexasHSFootball: With the trend of wide open offenses and high scores in football, do you believe other classifications should consider the 45-point mercy rule?

Coach Crawford:​ ​There​ ​might​ ​be​ ​a​ ​need​ ​eventually,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​think​ ​the​ ​purist​ ​are going​ ​to​ ​allow​ ​that​ ​to​ ​happen.​ ​The​ ​good​ ​thing​ ​about​ ​the​ ​other​ ​classifications,​ ​or​ ​funny football​ ​as​ ​i​ ​like​ ​to​ ​call​ ​it​ ​11-man​ ​football; ​they​ ​can​ ​control​ ​it​ ​a​ ​little​ ​bit​ ​more​ ​than​ ​us. If Richland​ ​Springs​ ​only​ ​has​ ​eight​ ​kids​ ​then​ ​they​ ​can​ ​only​ ​control​ ​it​ ​so​ ​much; can’t​ ​tell​ ​kids​ ​to lay​ ​down.​ ​My​ ​advice​ ​at​ ​the​ ​next​ ​level​ ​to​ ​those​ ​guys​ ​that​ ​are​ ​upset​ ​because​ ​they​ ​get​ ​beat
so​ ​bad,​ ​is​ ​get​ ​better​ ​or​ ​don’t​ ​schedule​ ​that​ ​team,​ ​it’s​ ​as​ ​simple​ ​as​ ​that.

TexasHSFootball: How would you describe the culture of the program that you’ve established here at Abbott?

Coach Crawford:​ ​We’re​ ​big​ ​culture​ ​people​ ​here​ ​and​ ​I​ ​feel​ ​we’ve​ ​worked​ ​really​ ​hard​ ​to make​ ​it​ ​something​ ​to​ ​be​ ​proud​ ​of. ​I​ ​think​ ​the​ ​mistake​ ​that​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​programs​ ​make​ ​is​ ​that they​ ​don’t​ ​go​ ​athletic​ ​department​ ​wide,​ ​they​ ​just​ ​go​ ​sport.​ ​When​ ​a​ ​coach​ ​comes​ ​in​ ​and says​ ​the​ ​most​ ​important​ ​thing​ ​is​ ​football,​ ​I’m​ ​just​ ​going​ ​to​ ​give​ ​my​ ​full​ ​effort​ ​to​ ​football,​ ​I disagree​ ​with​ ​that.​ ​At​ ​this​ ​size​ ​school​ ​it’s​ ​very​ ​important​ ​not​ ​to​ ​be​ ​focused​ ​on​ ​an
individual​ ​sport​ ​because​ ​these​ ​kids​ ​play​ ​everything.​ ​When​ ​you​ ​have​ ​one​ ​expectation level​ ​for​ ​football​ ​and​ ​a​ ​lower​ ​expectation​ ​level​ ​for​ ​basketball,​ ​by​ ​the​ ​time​ ​your​ ​kids​ ​come back​ ​to​ ​football,​ ​they’re​ ​not​ ​going​ ​to​ ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​do​ ​what​ ​you​ ​need​ ​them​ ​to​ ​do.​ ​I​ ​believe​ ​we have​ ​shown​ ​that​ ​attitude​ ​works.​ ​The​ ​thing​ ​I’m​ ​most​ ​proud​ ​of​ ​as​ ​an​ ​athletic​ ​director​ ​is​ ​the fact​ ​that​ ​in​ ​the​ ​last​ ​three​ ​years,​ ​every​ ​single​ ​team​ ​sport​ ​and​ ​individual​ ​sport​ ​has​ ​made​ ​the postseason.​ ​I’ve​ ​tried​ ​to​ ​get​ ​there​ ​for​ ​years​ ​and​ ​we’ve​ ​finally​ ​got​ ​there.​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​know​ ​if we’ll​ ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​maintain​ ​that​ ​forever,​ ​but​ ​it’s​ ​something​ ​we​ ​will​ ​always​ ​strive​ ​for.​ ​Culture is​ ​huge​ ​and​ ​you​ ​have​ ​to​ ​build​ ​it​ ​throughout​ ​the​ ​program​ ​and​ ​throughout​ ​the​ ​school​ ​and​ ​I think​ ​longevity​ ​helps​ ​with​ ​that​ ​being​ ​here​ ​so​ ​long​ ​and​ ​I​ ​feel​ ​another​ ​thing​ ​that​ ​helps​ ​is​ ​we have​ ​so​ ​many​ ​people​ ​involved​ ​within​ ​our​ ​program​ ​now​ ​that​ ​went​ ​through​ ​our​ ​program and​ ​that’s​ ​big.

 

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