Carl Abseck fondly remembers growing up in Bridgeport, a small, quiet town in north Texas. As a young kid, he excitedly awaited game days for the local high school football team. Abseck could buy a ribbon for a quarter at his elementary school and wear it to Friday night games.
"Everybody comes out and it's a community celebration," Abseck said.
Abseck never forgot that feeling. So, when Tom Westerberg recently resigned as head football coach and athletic director at Barbers Hill to take over as athletic director at Hays ISD, Abseck, the longtime, impressively successful Cedar Park High coach, jumped at the opportunity to head to Mont Belvieu.
After 16 years at Cedar Park near Austin, including the last six as head coach, where he led the Timberwolves to a 71-10 overall record, a 2015 Class 5A state championship and a 2020 Class 5A state final appearance, Abseck finds himself back in his element at a one-school town, hoping to lead it to the championship glory he knows well.
"One of the biggest things was, as a coach, having done this for 24 years, I've always worked at a multi-school district," said Abseck, who was also an assistant coach on Cedar Park's 2012 state title team. "I've always wanted to coach in a situation where you had one high school that was supported by the entire community, from the time they're in Pre-K to the time they graduate. It felt like a good challenge to do something new."
Cedar Park High is a part of the six-school Leander Independent School District. Cedar Park has a population of 74,000-plus. Mont Belvieu is a blossoming town of 5,800-plus that lives and breathes the blue and white of the Eagles.
"From the standpoint of having been somewhere for 16 years, we talk to our kids all the time about challenging themselves. For me, it's practicing what I preach," Abseck said. "We had a lot of success at Cedar Park. It's a great community and administration. But there's a lot of things about Barbers Hill that made it attractive. I'm stepping out of my comfort zone, and I haven't done that. Definitely not as a head coach."
Abseck met with Barbers Hill coaches and players during a three-day stay last week, just two days after informing Cedar Park players he was leaving. He also met with the city's leadership board.
"A lot of people are from there, went to school there and have come back after college and doing their things because it's a great community," Abseck said of Mont Belvieu and Barbers Hill. "The schools are A-plus rated. It's booming with new houses and commercial development and is becoming a really attractive area on that east side of Houston. People don't stay if they're not happy and don't feel respected and treated well. It's just a happy, enjoyable place."
Another aspect of this new chapter for Abseck is that he will also be athletic director. The job shares similarities to his role as athletic coordinator at Cedar Park High, where he oversaw a bigger athletic department than he will at Barbers Hill. Abseck said he's excited about every one of the Eagles' athletic programs.
Barbers Hill ended the 2020-21 school year in style, as the baseball and softball teams each won state titles.
"I have a responsibility to other programs to give them the necessary tools to be successful, be present and be supportive," Abseck said. "A lot of that, I've done, so for me it'll be about learning the protocols and how they do things at Barbers Hill and the budgets and guidelines that are set up."
On the football field, Abseck is confident he has the recipe to bring a consistent, winning standard to the Eagles, who have only been past the second round of the playoffs once in the last 10 seasons and did not make the playoffs four times over that span.
Offensively, Abseck expects to be difficult to prepare for. The Eagles will be multiple, based out of a one-back set but also versatile enough to go with a two-back alignment, trips (three receivers to one side), or empty (no backs) if need be. Barbers Hill will attack vertically and horizontally and be diverse in running and passing.
Defensively, Abseck said he will be base out of a three-down front and be ultra-aggressive in getting to the quarterback, throwing in zone blitzes and pressures with man coverage.
"At Cedar Park, we talked all the time about having a blue-collar mentality in a white-collar world," Abseck said. "There's no substitute for hard work, and that's where it starts. We're going to practice hard, we're going to prepare hard and we're going to play exceptionally hard. Kids will show up on time, do their job and be extremely coachable."
But that's all for later. For now, Abseck is busy selling his house in Cedar Park and moving to Mont Belvieu. Within the past week, he went from Cedar Park to Barbers Hill and back to Cedar Park in what has been a busy, hectic transition. Abseck also has a kid going off to college soon, so he's ready for that as well. He's been putting the miles on his vehicle, certainly, but it's been worth it.
"It's been a whirlwind," Abseck said, "but it's been really fun to meet all these people who are proud Eagles."