Parish Episcopal proved it could win a state championship in the highest classification in TAPPS.
Then the Panthers proved they could do it again, with the pressure of being the defending Texas Association of Private and Parochial School champs.
Now they’ll have to prove they can remain on top without Preston Stone, the All-American quarterback who has departed for SMU.
But with a foundation in place for sustained success and plenty of returnees on both sides of scrimmage, Parish head coach Daniel Novakov remains optimistic.
“I’d like to think we’d be just as good if not better,” Novakov said. “A three-peat is darn-near impossible at any level. That’s the motivation we have. These kids have an opportunity to try and make history.”
Besides a third straight crown, the Panthers will aim for an elusive undefeated campaign. Two years ago, they fell to Fort Worth All Saints in the regular-season finale only to avenge the defeat in the playoffs.
In 2020, Parish lost to Fort Worth Nolan in the regular-season finale, then knocked off the Vikings four weeks later in the championship game.
“Both times we’ve lost, it’s been for the better because it forces us to evaluate and change some things that needed to be changed,” Novakov said. “That’s the great thing about high school football. People grow, and they step up and make adjustments. That’s the neat part about watching the transformation. You put the puzzle together and hope it makes a state championship team.”
It changes your identity a little bit every year.Daniel Novakov
For the first time since 2016, Parish will have a new starting quarterback. In four seasons, Stone became one of the top passers in Texas high school history, with more than 13,000 yards and 145 touchdowns.
“Preston would be the first to tell you that it wasn’t all him,” Novakov said. “In the last three playoff games, we were more of a running team than a passing team anyway. I think that got a little bit glossed over. We’ve got a bunch of good players.”
The returning talent includes all-state running back Andrew Paul (747 yards, 10 touchdowns), two-way standout Blake Youngblood (853 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns), hard-hitting linebacker Keegon Addison (165 tackles), and dynamic junior utility player Daniel Demery.
The offense will be led by either Sachse transfer VictorJesus Gutierrez or Sawyer Anderson, a promising freshman in the same dual-threat mode as Stone who hails from the Park Cities.
“We have a system, but the offense morphs into the talents that we have,” Novakov said. “Our goal is to get our athletes the ball in space and let them do what they do. It changes your identity a little bit every year.”
Other players to watch for the Panthers include receivers Nathaniel Hill (verbally committed to Navy), Noah Billings (a Prosper transfer who also will play safety), and Chase Burton. Utility player Cedric Mays also should contribute to the high-powered attack.
On defense, Parish’s contributors will include returnees Tre Williams at defensive end and Cooper Mailand at linebacker, along with transfers Walker Anderson (Highland Park), Dylan Davis (Greenhill), and Seth Scott (Duncanville).
The goal is to be celebrating again in December, something the Panthers had to curtail after last year’s championship game because of a mandated 14-day quarantine immediately afterward.
“Once we drove back on the bus, we didn’t see each other for two weeks. It was a fun year with memories that will last a lifetime, but there were a lot of things we missed out on,” Novakov said. “The fun part about football — the camaraderie and all that — was taken away. Hopefully, we can get back to that.”