By Bret Strelow
K.P. Parks earned recognition as Rowan County’s Offensive Player of the Year for the way he performed on Friday nights.
The beginning of each week enabled him to thrive at the end.
Parks, West Rowan’s tailback, broke the county’s single-season record by rushing for 2,536 yards as a sophomore. He already ranks first on the county’s career rushing list with 4,257 yards ó previous record holder Wade Moore finished a three-year varsity career with 4,256.
Parks accumulated 345 carries in 12 games during the 2007 season, and West coach Scott Young took steps to keep his star from wearing down.
“We did something that we had never done, and we’ve had a lot of great running backs,” Young said. “We didn’t really have anybody to share the load with him, so we’d go no contact with him Monday and light contact Tuesday.”Really, Wednesday was the only big, heavy day he had in practice. We tried to keep him fresh in practice because we knew there were some games on Friday where he’d have to carry a big workload.”
Parks didn’t have more than 28 carries in a game as a freshman, and he topped that mark seven times as a sophomore. He rushed 40 times in a regular-season victory against Davie County and a playoff loss to North Gaston.
West led 13-10 entering the fourth quarter against the War Eagles, and Davie reclaimed the lead on a touchdown with 8:24 remaining. West went ahead 21-17 thanks to Parks’ touchdown with 4:38 left, and Davie produced another TD one minute later.
Parks finished a 269-yard night by scoring the game-winning touchdown with two seconds left.
“All I remember thinking is, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this,’ ” Parks said. “I was so tired, and I did what I had to do.
“I work out to get to that point to know I can have a lot of carries, and it’s a good thing. It shows coaches can trust me.”
The coaches relied on Parks to carry an offense that featured a new quarterback and rebuilt line.
He ran behind a line that included Shrine Bowl selection David Melton and East-West pick Austin Lowe in 2006. John Noble was the only returning starter from that group.
“We had the best line last year, and I was just looking forward to seeing how good he really was, to see if he could make us look good,” Noble said. “Knowing for years to come he’ll still have the (career rushing) record, I’ll know he got some of those yards behind me.
“Blocking is a lot easier with his running style. No matter what you do, he’ll make you right.”
Parks gained at least 200 yards in seven games and rushed for 31 touchdowns.
He had 339 yards and six TDs against conference rival Northwest Cabarrus, and the Falcons won an outright NPC title for the third straight year.
“Everybody came together as a team, and they got me this award,” Parks said.
Parks is on pace to become one of the top rushers in North Carolina history.
He would finish behind only three backs on the state’s current career yardage list if his final two seasons match his first two. Former Ragsdale star Toney Baker, who had a record 10,241 yards, ranks directly ahead of Albemarle alum T.A. McLendon (9,038) and Maiden graduate Tommy Henry (8,595).
Parks laughed at speculation that he will play his final two years at a place other than West Rowan.
“I’m a Falcon to the end,” Parks said. “I’m not going nowhere.”
The relevant schools in his mind are prestigious universities such as Georgia (where running back Knowshon Moreno shined as a redshirt freshman) and North Carolina, but the recruiting process isn’t an immediate concern.
Parks is a valuable member of West’s basketball team, and he’ll shift his focus back to football once the hoops season ends.
“If he’ll do what he’s supposed to do in the offseason, he can get better,” Young said. “Four of those five in front of him return, and I think the combination of the two bodes for a good junior season.”
Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or email@example.com.
By Bret Strelow