By Michael Finnegan / Special Contributor
Parish Episcopal made a dramatic entrance into the highest classification in TAPPS.
Parish mounted a furious second-half comeback to defeat Fort Worth Nolan 41-27 in the district opener for both teams on Friday at Snyder Stadium.
Down 21-0 early, Parish scored 26 straight points, and finally taking the lead on the first play of the fourth quarter before pulling away late.
“The first thing I noticed was how many players they had,” said Parish head coach Scott Nady. “That’s what happens when you play in the biggest division I guess, but we only have 43.”
The Vikings (1-3) jumped out to the big first-quarter lead on two touchdown runs by Rory Mitchell and a 20-yard fumble return. Mitchell tallied three touchdowns on the night and rushed for 260 yards.
Then the Parish offense came alive, with Jeremy Winston leading the way.
The senior running back scored on a 15-yard run to cut the Nolan lead to 21-7 just before halftime. He scored early in the third quarter on a 4-yard run, and his 13-yard run up the middle a few minutes later pulled Parish (3-1) to within two points at 21-19.
“I challenged the boys in the locker room at halftime,” Nady said. “I told them whatever happens in the second half will define who we are for the rest of the season, and they responded.”
The Parish defense forced a three-and-out on Nolan’s next possession, and on a crucial fourth-down play early in the fourth quarter, Jeremy Hodge threw a 19-yard touchdown strike to Justin Morris to give the Panthers their first lead, 26-21.
Hodge, who earlier in the day verbally committed to New Mexico State, threw for 180 yards and also rushed for 111 yards.
Down for the first time in the game, Nolan drove the length of the field on their next possession and regained the lead 27-26 after Mitchell scored on a 25-yard run.
But Nolan couldn’t stop Winston, Hodge, and the rest of a Parish offense that has surpassed 40 points in each of its first four games.
On first-and-20 at the Parish 42-yard line, Hodge rolled to his right and find Morris wide open for a 30-yard completion. With 5:01 left in the game, Winston scored his fourth touchdown of the night on a 29-yard run. The two-point conversion made it 34-27, giving the Panthers a lead they would not relinquish.
Winston added a security touchdown with just over a minute left in the game, his fifth of the night, to put Parish on top 41-27.
Parish hosts defending TAPPS Division I state champion Plano Prestonwood next week.