Although the 2017 football season is now officially over across the state of Texas, local high school players are continuing to be recognized for their talents, abilities, and performances on the gridiron this year.
Two members of the 2017 Bullard Panther varsity football team fit that description, as senior quarterback Cleet Bowman and senior wide receiver Ty Crayton are two athletes of a field of 11 candidates nominated for the sixth annual American State Bank Player of the Year award.
“The annual Player of the Week banquet is a great opportunity to recognize some of the very talented football players we have here in East Texas,” said Tim Haugh, American State Bank Vice President of Consumer Lending. “All of the winners this year, as well as in the past, have been very deserving and it’s been a really great program for us. Including this year’s amount, American State Bank has given out approximately $175,000 in scholarship money since the award’s inception.”
According to Haugh, the program is not only highlighting the successes of student athletes on the field of play, but also helping parents with the cost of college tuition.
“We’ve been able to help a lot of student athletes in East Texas to further their education,” said Haugh. “Some of these kids do receive athletic scholarships, but as good as all of these athletes are, some do not receive scholarships. We’re helping families offset the cost of a college education. This award has become the elite award in football across East Texas, and we’re proud about honoring some high-quality student athletes.”
To be eligible for the award, the players first had to be voted on by fans as American State Bank Players of the Week throughout the regular season. The award highlights an individual athlete’s performance during each of the season’s 11 weeks of play.
Crayton, a wide receiver and defensive back for the Panther varsity football team, was named as the Week 5 winner of the American State Bank Player of the Week award.
“I was pretty excited when I found out I won the Player of the Week award,” said Crayton. “I was shocked actually because I didn’t find out until Wednesday afternoon when Coach Callaway told me that I was nominated and that I won. It means a lot being a senior and winning this award. I hope the younger players under me will look up, continue to play hard, and will hopefully bring awards like this back home to Bullard as they grow.”
The son of Shimeka and Andre Crayton, he picked up the honor for is stat line in the Panthers’ Class 4A’s Division 1 Region 3 District 9 battle against the Center Roughriders Friday, Sept. 29, at Panther Stadium.
During the contest, Crayton was used by the Panther coaching staff on both sides of the offensive spectrum, catching a total of 11 passes for 130 yards and two passing touchdowns, as well as five rushes for 78 yards and one rushing touchdown.
Despite Crayton’s contribution to the Panthers’ efforts, the Roughriders were able to escape Bullard’s Panther stadium win the district victory, Center’s first win of the year, defeating the Panthers, 39-35.
“The game was really back-and-forth,” said Crayton. “I thought I played pretty well; I did everything I could to try to help the team. As a team, I thought we all played great; we still have a couple of mistakes, but other than that, we played well. Center was a tough team to play, but we never gave up and kept fighting to the end.”
According to season stats sent to Bullard Banner News by the Panther coaching staff, Crayton was the leading receiver this season, catching a total of 58 receptions for 845 yards and 11 receiving touchdowns. He was also used in the team’s rushing game, carrying the ball on 14 runs for 129 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown.
When asked about what he desired his legacy within the Panther football program to be once he hangs up his cleats on his college career, Crayton said he wants the example he has set for the younger players to be what he is remembered for.
“I would like my legacy to be that I was a tremendous hard worker, a great athlete, and a great student that led others by his example,” said Crayton. “Hopefully the younger kids that are watching me can continue to build on that legacy and the excellence that is Bullard Panther football.”
Just two short weeks later, the Panthers were back in the award’s conversation, as Bowman was named the American State Bank Player of the Week award winner for Week 7.
“It’s a really big honor to win an award such as the ASB Player of the Week award,” said Bowman. “It really proves to people that Bullard has a bunch of good athletes and that we’re working hard and surprising people every day.”
The son of Sterling and Erica Bowman, as well as the team’s third year starter under center, he was awarded the prize thanks to his strong performance in the team’s district contest against the Palestine Wildcats Friday, Oct. 13, at Palestine.
Speaking about the team’s mindset going into the contest against Palestine, Bowman said the team had a bad taste in their mouths after suffering a loss in their first district game of the season against the Center Roughriders (39-35) before the bye week, saying he understood that the contest against the Wildcats was a must-win situation if the team’s playoff hopes were to become a reality.
“Going into the game and knowing it was their Homecoming game, we knew we had to win in order to have a chance at playoffs,” said Bowman. “We really focused at practices and were able to plan for Palestine for two weeks. There was definitely more determination and more of a hunger for the win. All of our work and preparation really paid off in the end because we, as a team, had a great game.”
Despite the contest serving as the Homecoming matchup for the Wildcats, Bowman connected on 14 of 22 passing attempts for a total of 291 passing yards and five passing touchdowns, including two scores to senior wide receiver Will McCowin and senior wide receiver Ty Crayton, respectively, as well as one touchdown to junior wide receiver Dustin Dover.
Additionally, Bowman used his strong legs to help out the Panther offense, scoring one rushing touchdown and ending the contest with eight rushes for -5 yards.
With his strong performance against Palestine, Bowman led the Panthers to their first district win in nearly two years, as the Panthers defeated the Wildcats, 41-20.
According to the team’s 2017 season stats, Bowman finished his career under center completing a total of 159 out of 279 passes during his senior season for a 56.99 percent completion percentage, collecting 2,312 passing yards and 25 passing touchdowns, while throwing a total of five interceptions.
Bowman’s legs were also used in certain situations by the Panther coaching staff, as the signal caller rushed 67 times for -20 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
The award marked the second time Bowman has been recognized, with his first honor coming in Week 10 of the 2015 season, where he completed 12 of 14 passes for 393 yards and five passing touchdowns, as well as one rushing touchdown, in the team’s Senior Night victory against the Melissa Cardinals at Panther Stadium.
Despite the contributions of Crayton and Bowman to the team this season, the Bullard Panther varsity football team finished the 2017 regular season with an overall record of 3-7, 2-4 in district play, missing the cut for the UIL playoffs.
Now, both Crayton and Bowman, along with nine other candidates with solid performances throughout the 2017 football season, will be highlighted at the American State Bank Player of the Year Award Banquet, scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18, at Bullard’s Kiepersol Bushman’s Event Center.
According to Haugh, the guest speaker at the sixth annual American State Bank Player of the Year Awards Banquet is tentatively slated to be either Jacksonville native and National Football League veteran Luke McCown, or his older brother, former Texas A&M Aggie quarterback Randy McCowin.
Other East Texas high school football winners of the American State Bank Player of the Week award and eligible for the Player of the Year accolade include Bishop TK Gorman wide receiver Isaiah Haggerty, Van quarterback Garrett Moseley, Winona running back Quindarious Johnson, TK Gorman quarterback Jake Smith, Chapel Hill quarterback Khalan Griffin, Robert E. Lee quarterback Chance Amie, Winona quarterback KJ Kincade, Canton quarterback McGwire Martin, and Jacksonville quarterback Dontrail Session.
One of the weekly winners will receive a $10,000 scholarship to the college, university, or accredited trade school of their choice. The remainder of the award’s weekly winners will also take home a $2,500 scholarship.
To nominate a player for the American State Bank Player of the Week award throughout the regular season, visit www.asbplayeroftheweek.com