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.”
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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