Fab Five: Parish Rallies for TAPPS Crown

By Robert Thomas / Contributor

WACO — In a year filled with obstacles, Parish Episcopal persevered and achieved its ultimate goal.

The Panthers earned their fifth consecutive TAPPS Division I state championship on Friday with a 40-29 victory over Houston St. Thomas.

After a season that featured some tough injuries and a brutal nondistrict schedule, Parish’s resolve was tested against by the previously unbeaten Eagles, who led twice on Friday before a talented senior class rallied the Panthers to the title-clinching win.

“This season was a challenge for us from the first game,” said Parish head coach Daniel Novakov. “But these kids never lost their focus and they responded to every challenge put in their path.”

Parish trailed 22-19 in the second half after St. Thomas scored on back-to-back drives in the third quarter.

However, Maddux Reid was the first to answer the challenge, capping a 72-yard drive with a 16-yard scoring run with 1:20 left in the third quarter to retake the lead for the Panthers at 26-22. Reid, a Harvard commit, finished with 188 yards rushing and four touchdowns.

Parish kept that lead intact into the fourth quarter, thanks to an interception by Kyle Hamburger on the ensuing St. Thomas drive. The turnover helped spark an 11-play, 66-yard scoring drive, with Reid ending the series on a 14-yard scoring run.

Another defensive play, this time a fumble recovery by Caleb Bowers, set up the Parish offense at the St. Thomas 15 for its next series. Four plays later, Reid rumbled in from 2 yards out to extend the lead to 40-22 with 4:07 left.

“The defense made so many big plays today,” Novakov said. “And those plays came at such big moments to help us keep the lead.”

Reid, who had a tough fumble in the first half, finished with three second-half touchdowns.

“I knew I had to make up for that mistake in the first half,” Reid said. “I wasn’t going to let them keep me out of the end zone with the season on the line.”

The Eagles (12-1) tried to rally with a late touchdown from Vanderbilt signee Johann Cardenas, who finished with three scoring runs. However, Parish’s Jaylen Pile recovered the onside kick try to help run out the clock and start the title celebration.

The Panthers (10-3) showed plenty of fight early in the game as well, as St. Thomas had the early momentum after going up 7-0 midway through the first quarter.

Junior quarterback Sawyer Anderson, a Purdue commit, helped lead a 12-play, 65-yard scoring drive that ended on a 15-yard scoring grab by Bryson Fields. Anderson finished with 206 total yards and two touchdowns while Fields added seven catches for 75 yards.

The Panthers misfired on the point-after try to trail 7-6, but the Parish defense stopped St. Thomas on fourth down at the Parish 28 on the ensuing drive. Anderson then led a 10-play, 72-yard drive to help claim a 12-7 lead on a two-yard scoring run by Reid.

The Parish offense was methodical in its approach, as all three of its first-half drives had at least 10 plays.

“We wanted to take the air of the game because St. Thomas has such an explosive offense,” Novakov said. “Our guys did a great job following the game plan and played so very well.”

Parish nearly added another score late in the second quarter, using a 10-play drive to move the ball down to the St. Thomas 2. However, a fumble on the goal line turned into a touchback.

Anderson, who now has quarterbacked three straight title wins, kept the Parish offense going in the second half with a 25-yard scoring run to push the lead to 19-7 with 9:35 left in the third quarter.

St. Thomas answered with back-to-back scoring drives to take its final lead at 22-19 with 3:26 left in the third quarter. However, the final rally belonged to Parish with three of the game’s final four touchdowns to close out victory.

“Every year it seems to get better and better,” Anderson said. “To be a part of what we’ve accomplished as a program is just a great feeling.”

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