Cedar Park

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their per­son­nel and tai­lor the of­fense and de­fense to the peo­ple they have,” Ab­seck said af­ter a re­cent prac­tice. “We don’t get to re­cruit; we get the kids that grow up here, and it’s our job to put them in a spot where they can be suc­cess­ful.”

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Sex­ton helped the Tim­ber­wolves to a Class 5A, Di­vi­sion II state cham­pi­onship in 2015, and he guided Cedar Park into the third round of the 2016 play­offs.

Sex­ton has a 28-1 record as a starter, and he holds vir­tu­ally all of the school’s pass­ing records.

His grasp of the of­fense and abil­ity to throw down­field gives the Tim­ber­wolves plenty of op­tions on of­fense, and Cedar Park has av­er­aged al­most 43 points a game in his 29 starts.

It’s been a sea change for a pro­gram that used a phys­i­cal run­ning game to bat­ter its way to a spot among the state’s elite teams.

For­mer head coach Chris Ross built Cedar Park into a pow­er­house at the start of this decade by run­ning the ball and craft­ing a fe­ro­cious de­fense that re­tains its “Black Rain” moniker.

Ab­seck, an of­fen­sive as­sis­tant for Ross’ staff, es­ti­mated that the Tim­ber­wolves ran the ball “80 per­cent of the time” dur­ing Ross’ ten­ure.

Cedar Park in­cor­po­rated more spread el­e­ments into its of­fense af­ter Joe Wil­lis re­placed Ross in 2012, and a will­ing­ness to throw the ball has only grown since Ab­seck be­came head coach in 2015.

Over the past two years, Sex­ton has thrown 51 touch­down passes, in­clud­ing 29 dur­ing the Tim­ber­wolves’ un­de­feated state-ti­tle cam­paign of 2015. This year? “We’ll prob­a­bly throw the ball 60 per­cent of the time,” Ab­seck said.

“Mak’s big­ger, faster and stronger than when he was a sopho­more, and his grasp of the of­fense is even greater. He’ll have an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing with the ball ev­ery play.”

Sex­ton, who’s be­ing heav­ily re­cruited by Trin­ity Univer­sity in San An­to­nio and Texas A&M-Kingsville, will be pro­tected by an ex­pe­ri­enced of­fen­sive line led by Jonathan Kelly.

He pointed out, too, that three of Cedar Park’s top re­ceivers in 2016 — Car­son Neel, Drew McDaniel and Pay­den Saw­icki — re­turn.

“The of­fense al­ways starts with the o-line­men,” Sex­ton said, “but as a quar­ter­back, you get the ball ev­ery play, and your job is to dis­trib­ute the ball and get it in the right spots.”

Kelly has played with Sex­ton since pee­wee foot­ball, and he ap­pre­ci­ates what his long­time team­mate can do to keep de­fenses off bal­ance.

“It’s kind of rare when you get a quar­ter­back like Mak com­ing through our pro­gram,” he said. “We trust him, and we like to put the of­fense in his hands.

“He’s ma­tured a lot as a quar­ter­back. He’s tak­ing care of the of­fense and has made it his own.”

As he en­ters his fi­nal high school sea­son, Sex­ton wants to live up to his team­mates’ faith in him while lead­ing the Tim­ber­wolves to their third state cham­pi­onship in the past six years.

“I was a scared little sopho­more with a bunch of se­nior starters (in 2015),” he said. “Now, I like the ball in my hands. If I want to, I can put the ball in my hands and put the game in my hands.”

AMER­I­CAN-STATESMAN STEPHEN SPILLMAN / FOR

Do-it-all of­fen­sive line­man Jonathan Kelly (63) an­chors the Tim­ber­wolves’ ex­pe­ri­enced line.

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