In David Feaster’s first five seasons as head coach, the Parkway Panthers have averaged about 42 points per game.
Yes, that’s right, 42.
There may be some other teams in the state that averaged that many over the same stretch, but it’s got to be a very short list.
This season, Parkway is off to a 2-0 start after defeating Lufkin, Texas, 69-54 in the Landers Dodge Battle on the Border on Saturday at Independence Stadium.
The Panthers host the Huntington Raiders on Friday at Preston Crownover Stadium.
In Feaster’s first five years, Parkway averaged just over 10 wins per seasib on the field. (Parkway had to forfeit five games in 2014 for violating LHSAA rules.)
Before Feaster arrived, the Parkway program was on the upswing. Jim Gatlin, now the head coach at Northwood, and Chris Hill, the head coach for one year before Feaster took over, won eight and nine games, respectively, in the 2009 and 2010 regular seasons.
But it’s safe to say Parkway hasn’t had a five-year run like this and the Panthers’ offensive firepower has been a big part of it.
So what’s the secret?
First, Feaster wants to make clear it hasn’t been only because of him. He cites the talented players he’s been privileged to coach and the assistant coaches who’ve helped make his vision at reality.
Feaster is the first to say you have to start with the players.
“I think the first thing I would point to is how hard our players work hard in the offseason,” he said.
In Parkway’s spread offense, like any other kind, it takes coordination from every position to be successful, but Feaster said there are three areas of focus — the quarterback, receivers and offensive line.
“The offensive line pass protection is crucial,” he said. “If you don’t have that everything else is really hard. But the hardest thing to coach, the thing that takes the most work, is the receiver because you have to have a bunch of guys with speed that can catch the ball.
“That’s what we spend all of our offseason working on, speed training. And our offensive line gets better so our pass protection is doable.”
Parkway and Feaster have been blessed with some exceptional receivers over the years and this year is no exception. Six-foot-4 junior Terrace Marshall Jr. is considered to be the top receiver in the nation in the Class of 2018 by several recruiting websites.
The Panthers have also had an embarrassment of riches at the quarterback position. In Feaster’s first year, Koby Copeland was a dual-threat standout.
He was followed by Brandon Harris, now at LSU, for two years. Then came Keondre Wudtee, now at Oklahoma State, in 2014 and 2015.
Justin Rogers, who made his first start in the Panthers’ season-opening 49-20 victory over Bastrop, has already received offers from several major college programs, including LSU.
Harris, Wudtee and Rogers have a lot in common. They’re all well over 6-feet tall and able to make plays with their feet.
But Feaster said you don’t necessarily need a four-star recruit at the position to be successful.
“To a certain extent, you have a quarterback or you don’t,” said Feaster, who is in his 20th season as a head coach and his 35th overall. “But having a guy doesn’t necessarily mean having an SEC guy. I coached for 30 years before I sent any quarterback to the SEC.
“I had some very good quarterbacks who would just do what they’re told, be very good athletes, get smart, have the reads, show the leadership and be able to throw the ball down the field and run when they needed to and so forth.”
But, Feaster said, if you have athletes at quarterback with the capability of a Harris, Wudtee or Rogers, it allows you to do more things within the scheme.
“It just so happens that in the last five years I’ve had phenomenal guys that have been tall in addition to doing all those other things, and they make everything that much easier because now, even when I make a bad play call, we’ve still got a chance. They can kind of create things on their own.”
Feaster makes no secret of the fact that he likes to put the ball in the air. But to have the kind of success he wants, throwing every down isn’t the way to go.
“In the process of this we always try to have very good running backs, always have schemes to try to block, open up holes to run the football,” he said. “I’ve had the three best quarterbacks back to back in the country that I can remember any high school ever having and in the midst of all this we’re still running the ball for a couple of thousand yards a year.
“On rainy nights we always want to have something we can do on short-yardage, goal-line situations and all that to keep people honest, to keep the defenses from keying in on what we’re trying to do.”
Feaster said the Panthers wouldn’t have had the kind of success they’ve had without the contributions of his assistant coaches.
While Feaster calls the plays in the games, Justin Scogin is the offensive coordinator. Kevin Black and Dale Ward coach the offensive line. On Saturday and Sunday, those four meet and put together the gameplan.
“We all draw it up,” Feaster said. “We all come out on the same page as far as knowing what we’re going to run, how we’re going to block it.”
Feaster said he’s often the last person on the field for practice. He watches Scogin call the plays and takes notes.
“I’m taking notes about which formations we want to be in to do certain plays against what defensive fronts,” he said.
Scogin calls the plays in the JV games, and Feaster said he could easily do it in the varsity ones, too. But Feaster enjoys that aspect of the game, matching wits with the opposing coaches.
“I’m going to do it as long as I can because that’s where the real fun of the game is,” he said.
It goes without saying he’s been good at it. His record speaks for itself.
— Russell Hedges, email@example.com