Offensive efficiency, defensive toughness propel Panthers to fifth straight TAPPS crown
Each football season brings a new group of players and a fresh set of hurdles, along with the same end goal.
Parish Episcopal has checked every box for the past five years. Its dynasty continued with a 40-29 win over previously unbeaten Houston St. Thomas in the TAPPS Division I state championship game on Dec. 1 in Waco.
With its fifth consecutive title, the Panthers have won 16 straight postseason games. They haven’t lost to a TAPPS opponent since 2020.
Parish certainly was battle-tested after a brutal nondistrict schedule consisting of perennial powerhouses from the public-school ranks, such as Aledo and South Oak Cliff. After a 1-3 start, the Panthers rolled off nine straight victories, averaging 52.7 points along the way.
“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.”
The Panthers will aim to keep the streak alive next season with quarterback Sawyer Anderson, a Purdue commit who has already won three championships as a starter.
They will need to restock in other areas after losing top college recruits such as defensive lineman Caleb Mitchell Irving (Purdue), offensive lineman Sam Liu (Louisiana-Monroe), running back Maddux Reid (Harvard), and more.
In the championship game, Parish rallied after twice trailing to the Eagles, including 22-19 in the third quarter. However, Reid’s 16-yard scoring run put Parish ahead for good.
Parish kept that lead intact into the fourth quarter, thanks to an interception by Kyle Hamburger on the ensuing St. Thomas drive. A fumble recovery by Caleb Bowers set up the Parish offense at the St. Thomas 15 for its next series.
“The defense made so many big plays,” Novakov said. “And those plays came at such big moments to help us keep the lead.”
Both takeaways led to touchdowns by Reid, who atoned for an early fumble with three second-half scores. He finished with 188 yards.
“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.”
Anderson finished with 206 total yards and two touchdowns while Bryson Fields tallied seven catches for 75 yards. They hooked up for an early score, and Anderson added a touchdown on the ground.
“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.”
Freelance writer Robert Thomas contributed to this story.