By BEN JOHNSON
Zach Parish felt like he had a void in his life last year. Waiting for basketball to gear up in the fall of 2012, Parish sat and watched as the Sequoyah football team took the field every Friday night.
Having not put on a helmet or pair of shoulder pads since middle school, Parish felt like something was missing.
“Seeing the sport being played made me really miss it,” Parish said. “I’ve always liked the sport. I just wanted to play football because I missed playing it.”
So Parish rectified the situation. He went out for spring practice earlier this year and joined Sequoyah’s football team.
And it didn’t take long for Parish to be penciled in at a critical position: quarterback.
In an instant, Parish was in a battle with Derrick Burner for the starting job as the Indians’ signal caller on offense. Parish won the job and guided Sequoyah to a 45-13 victory over Okemah in Week 1.
Parish, a 6-foot-1, 165-pound junior, completed 13 of his 20 passes for 219 yards and five touchdowns.
Not bad for someone who hadn’t played football in almost half a decade.
“The last time I played football was in seventh grade,” Parish said. “My debut was really fun, playing with a new team, new coaches and against my old school. I would have never thought of throwing five TD passes. I think I set a pretty high bar for myself.”
Not even Sequoyah coach Shane Richardson knew what to expect from Parish.
“Anytime you’re breaking in a quarterback, there is the unknown there,” said Richardson, in his first year as Sequoyah’s head coach. “We didn’t have passing league in the summer, and it was the first kind of action against another team of any kind. There was a lot of unknown.”
The Indians were precluded from participating in summer leagues or preseason scrimmages because of penalties that were imposed by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, after the organization had found Sequoyah to be in violation of summer camp policies in 2012. That kept Parish from building up solid rapport with his pass-catching teammates prior to the start of the season.
“It magnifies how well he played under all those adverse conditions,” Richardson said. “We were able to run the ball, too. That was a big key.”
The Indians piled up 186 yards on the ground, but Parish took care of most of the scoring through the air. Justin Hooper and Hunter Crow accounted for Sequoyah’s only two touchdowns that didn’t include Zach Parish on the passing end of the play.
Adding to the pressure already squarely placed on Parish’s shoulders was the burden of replacing Brayden Scott, a four-year starter at quarterback for the Indians who is now at the University of Memphis. And before Scott, it was Nathan Stanley, who signed with Mississippi out of high school.
No pressure, right, Zach?
“I knew when I came into the sport,” Parish said, “I had big shoes to fill, and (the coaching staff) believed that I was the one to fill them. There really isn’t much pressure; all I gotta do is go out and compete to the best I can.”
Parish’s tenure at quarterback continues tonight when the Indians host Beggs at Thompson Field. The Demons blanked Bristow in Week 1, but with Parish’s calm, cool and collected nature, the Indians are in good hands on offense, Richardson said.
“Zach is the kind of guy that is a very even-keeled athlete,” Richardson said. “He keeps his emotions in check, and he plays within the offense. [Against Okemah], he hit a couple of big passes early to Caisen Green, and that helped him get comfortable, and we protected him well after that.
“He played exceptional for the first time he’d every played high school football.”