Every opponent Abbott faced this season knew exactly where the ball was going.

After all, the Panthers don’t have many frills in their run-heavy offense, and they had the returning Super Centex Six-Man Player of the Year in their backfield.

Knowing what Abbott was going to do and stopping it turned out to be two completely different things, as the Panthers ripped off an 11-3 record en route to their first-ever appearance in the six-man Division I state championship game.

And even with all eyes on him, Tyler Russell flourished again.

The 5-foot-10, 150-pounder picked up 2,650 yards and found the end zone 55 times to become just the second player to repeat as the Super Centex Six-Man Player of the Year.

“Tyler is passionate about the game,” Abbott coach Terry Crawford said. “That’s one of his passions, and you can see it. Any time a kid has a passion for something, they’re going to be committed. One thing we didn’t have to worry about was whether he was going to study film. He was going to know assignments. He might have a physical breakdown occasionally, but he was a student of the game. That made him better.”

Russell joins former Panther Hunter Johnson, who claimed the award in 2008 and ’09, as the only two-time winners, and makes it five out of the last six years that the honoree has resided in Abbott.

“I like it, and I feel great,” Russell said. “It’s a really big accomplishment. I’m thankful to get it for the second year in a row, and I couldn’t have done it without everybody supporting me.”

Abbott has never seen a season quite like this one.

The Panthers have turned themselves into a perennial power, but the state semifinals had been a been a hurdle they couldn’t clear.

Three times they’d made it that far only to come up short to the eventual state champion.

Leading by one score with the clock rolling under two minutes against Gordon in this year’s state semifinal, the Panthers needed one more play to put the game away.

Russell provided it, cruising into the end zone from 16 yards out to clinch the trail-blazing victory and give Abbott its first chance to play for a state crown.

“When we won that game, Coach Crawford nearly ripped the jersey off my shoulder pads (in excitement),” Russell said. “That was my standout moment.”

Abbott hung with Throckmorton, the defending state champion that had knocked it out in the previous season’s state semifinal tilt, for the first half, but couldn’t keep up in the second to fall short of the crown, 72-30.

Even with that defeat, the Panthers have plenty of positive memories.

“It was a really great run,” Russell said. “I’m glad I did it with this team. There was a lot of chemistry with this team, and it was a really great team. I’m glad we made it my senior year. I wish we would have won, but I’m still really glad with the way the season turned out.”

Coach of the Year

Terry Crawford  Abbott

When he was younger, Terry Crawford wasn’t shy about yelling, screaming and throwing things to motivate his team.

With his Abbott team trailing Jonesboro, 40-18, at halftime of its last nondistrict game, Crawford let his voice be heard in the locker room.

The message hit home, and the Panthers scored 22 points in the third quarter. They weren’t able to complete the comeback and took their second loss of the season, but it was a turning point for the season.

“I don’t do that much any more,” Crawford said. “When I was younger, I thought that was the way you got teams ready to go. I’ve got some legendary locker room halftimes under my belt, but I haven’t done that in a long time. You just time those things, and I felt like we put ourselves in a position because we weren’t ready to play. So I thought it was time to get my point across pretty vocally, and it worked. You do that too much, and kids aren’t going to respond. So we try to save those.”

The Panthers followed with a seven-game winning streak that took them to the school’s first-ever state championship game, a run that cemented Crawford’s second straight selection as the Super Centex Six-man Coach of the Year.

“We all like those personal accolades,” Crawford said, “but in the grand scheme of things, it’s an honor, but it’s not why I do this job. I’m glad people think I did a good job, but I would rather win an award that says I’m a good humanitarian and I was good for these kids. But there are a lot of great coaches in six-man in Central Texas, and a lot of them I’ve learned from. A lot of them deserved to win this award.”

But it was Crawford who took his team to uncharted territory, not necessarily a place the Panthers thought they were headed after losses to Milford and Jonesboro in nondistrict. But Crawford never lost faith and felt confident about his team’s playoff path.

Now he just hopes to get another chance at a state crown somewhere down the road.

“I tell people all the time I want to get back again because your first time you don’t know what to expect,” Crawford said. “Your second time I’ve been told you enjoy it so much more. It may or may not happen, but the fun thing for me was it was normal for us to go to the semifinals. Once we won that game and went on, it felt like it did when we first started winning in Abbott where everybody was excited. It was a special type of enthusiasm. That last week of the season, that’s what it felt like.”



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Player of the Year: Tyler Russell, Abbott

Coach of the Year: Terry Crawford, Abbott

Pos Player Cl Ht Wt School
RB Dillon Beims So. 6-0 180 Abbott
LB Gerritt Buster Sr. 6-0 190 Jonesboro
RB Payton Casarez Sr. 6-1 190 Aquilla
RB Homero Diaz Fr. 5-6 140 Evant
RB Ryan Haley Jr. 5-9 160 Cranfills Gap
DB Calvin Hill Jr. 6-1 165 Live Oak
QB Paul McCaw So. 5-8 160 Live Oak
LB Dillon Rose Sr. 5-8 168 Walnut Springs
RB Tyler Russell Sr. 5-10 150 Abbott
QB Tyler Wise Jr. 5-11 160 Jonesboro
James Bartosh, Marshall Nors, Tanner Pope, Ryan Popp, Branden Urbanovsky, Kenny Watson and Ruston Wood, Abbott; Matt Bow, Hunter Garcia, Trevor Green and Corbin Williams, Bynum; Carlos Arellano and Dakota Hancock, Evant; Spencer Lord, Jonesboro; Dalton Sparks, Methodist Children’s Home; and Zane Trotter, Walnut Springs

First-team profiles


So., Abbott

2-way star dominated on defense with 147 tackles, 11.5 of which were for loss



Sr., Jonesboro

Versatile athlete was threat as runner, receiver; racked up 124 tackles



Sr., Aquilla

Scored 11 TDs in 1 game; finished year with 2,243 yards, 57 scores on ground



Fr., Evant

Burst onto scene with 1,646 yards, 33 TDs; also solid as defender, kick returner



Jr., Cranfills Gap

Led Lions to playofs with 1,184 yards, 20 TDs rushing, scored twice on defense



Coach, Abbott

Led Panthers to 1st-ever appearance in state title game after falling in semis 3 times



Jr., Live Oak

Mr. Do-It-All for the Falcons had 500-plus yards as a runner, thrower and receiver



So., Live Oak

Stepped in at QB to lift Falcons to state semis with 2,622 yards, 45 TDs passing



Sr., Walnut Springs

Hornet star ran for 1,156 yards, caught 30 passes for 446 yards, had 163 stops, 3 INTs



Sr., Abbott

2-time Player of Year ran for 2,650 yards, 55 TDs to lift team to state title contest



Sr., Jonesboro

Threw for 1,220 yards, 22 TDs, ran for 768 yards, 14 TDs, also scored on catch, INT



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