Panther Pride: Success Didn’t Come Easy for State Champion Parish

Parish Episcopal reached the top of the Texas private-school football ranks this season with a TAPPS Division I state championship.

The Panthers’ decisive 42-14 victory over Plano John Paul II in the Dec. 6 title game in Waco capped an ascent to the summit that began when Parish joined the largest TAPPS classification in 2017.

“This has been three years in the making,” said Parish quarterback Preston Stone. “The core group of guys we’ve had these past three years, it’s a brotherhood. It’s a lot easier to work hard toward a common goal when you’re playing with your best friends every day.”

In the championship game, Stone rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another, leading the Panthers past the Cardinals for the second time this season.

“He’s done it all year. He’s the No. 1 quarterback in the country for a reason,” said Parish head coach Daniel Novakov. “We let him run a little bit more, which I think surprised them.”

“It’s a lot easier to work hard toward a common goal when you’re playing with your best friends every day.” -Preston Stone

Stone, one of the leading quarterback recruits in the country among juniors, proved his dual-threat ability with 146 rushing yards on 17 carries. He also passed for 151 yards in windy conditions as the Panthers rallied from an early deficit and pulled away in the second half.

Christian Benson racked up 187 all-purpose yards and scored twice. And the Parish defense shut out JPII in the second half.

In 2017, Parish owned a history of success — including state championships in 2010 and 2014 — but little pedigree against the big boys. Two years later, the Panthers improved from five wins to 12 and swept every rival in perhaps the most difficult TAPPS district in the state.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize how hard of a job this was, not just for me, but for a lot of people,” Novakov said. “[The school administration committed] to building this program the right way when we moved up. Without that support, none of this would be possible.”

Stone finished the season with more than 4,000 yards of total offense. And he’ll return next year, along with Benson, to help the Panthers defend their crown.

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