Dennis Parker had no desire to coach football anymore when he resigned four years ago as head coach of Texas Lutheran University.
“I was tickled to death to be retired,” said Parker, who also was a head coach at North Texas and part of two high school staffs that won Texas state championships.
In 1983, he was the offensive coordinator for Texas state champion Converse Judson. In 1990, he led San Antonio Marshall to a Texas state championship as head coach.
Now, Parker has come out of retirement to try and deliver Idabel from the abyss. He’s doing it for just one reason.
“It’s my hometown,” Parker said.
Parker, a 1968 graduate of Idabel High School, was born in raised there. At age 64, he’s returned to his hometown to try and revive a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2006.
Idabel has just won three games the past two seasons, including going 1-9 last year.
Parker said his brother, Larry, who lives in Idabel, persuaded him to return and take the job.
“Idabel is a special place,” Parker said. “I was here for 18 years with five brothers. We had such great memories. We were good in the ‘60s when I was here. Hopefully, we are going to get Idabel back at the top of the food chain.
“I think I can build an athletic program across the board and leave a legacy.”
STIGLER SELECTED AS FAVORITE BUT LOSES KEY PLAYER
Stigler is once again the pick as the pre-season favorite in District 3A-8 by the coaches, but the Panthers suffered a major blow in the offseason.
Running back Trace Jackson tore an ACL during a 7-on7- camp in the summer and is lost for the season.
“He was probably our most dangerous kid coming into this season,” Stigler coach Chris Risenhoover said. “Now I am the next fastest guy on the team.”
Jackson had more than 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving last season.
The Panthers don’t have many seniors, but one is quarterback Dylan Bryant, who is moving from receiver to be this season’s signal caller. With Jackson out, the Panthers will rely more on Bryant’s arm this season.
“Dylan is extremely talented at throwing the football,” Risenhoover said. “We will probably look more that way as far as spreading the field and opening everything up.
“We’ve got five experienced offensive linemen back. That means a lot. If you can win the battles up there you always have a chance to move the football.”
DEPTH A PROBLEM FOR VALLIANT
Valliant coach Chad Endsley said his Bulldogs will have to play “ironman football” this season with several players seeing double duty on both offense and defense.
“Our numbers are down. We don’t have as many kids,” Endsley said. “We have to stay healthy. We don’t have the depth to compete if we have injuries.”
Valliant must run the football and control the clock to have success, Endsley said.
“We can’t get into a high paced game,” he said. “We got to keep it down and just grind it out.”
SPIRO BOASTS ONE OF THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE STATE
Spiro will be led by talented senior quarterback McKinley Whitfield, who is ranked as the No. 9 prospect in the state on The Oklahoman’s Super 30 list.
“He can play,” Spiro coach Chris Bunch said. “He has good speed. He has been offered by a lot of schools.”
Whitfield will likely play receiver or linebacker/defensive back in college.
Spiro returns six starters on defense and five on offense from last season’s 8-3 club, but the Bulldogs’ 2014 season may hinge on their offensive line.
“We’ve got two starters back on the line,” Bunch said. “The real key for us is the offensive line gelling.”
ROLAND EXPECTING BIG SEASON
Roland returns 14 starters led by tight end Austin Cantrell, a 6-4, 250-pounder who is a University of Arkansas verbal commit.
“They got an animal coming back,” Bunch said of the Rangers and Cantrell, who scored 11 touchdowns last season.
The Rangers also return starting running back Josh Wheeler and junior quarterback Manuel Bunch, who had more 1,800 yards combined rushing and receiving and 20 touchdowns as a sophomore.
DISTRICT 3A8 COACHES POLL
1. Stigler (8-3)
2. Spiro (8-3)
3. Roland (6-5)
4. Eufaula (5-5)
5. Idabel (1-9)
6. Heavener (2-7)
7. Valliant (2-8)
Last year’s records in parentheses