3A Championship: Gallagher column: Emotional time for K.P.
RALEIGH ó First, Jeff Chapman hugged K.P. Parks. Then he hugged K.P.’s father.
Then Parks’ dad, Kevin Sr., hugged Chapman and fellow assistants Steve Williams and Durwood Bynum. Meanwhile, his son wrapped his arms around just about everyone within reach.
There were plenty of tears shed during those emotional moments after West Rowan’s 28-21 victory against Eastern Alamance Saturday that gave the Falcons their second straight 3A state championship.
It was the end of an era. K.P. finished his career on a 30-game winning streak.
The Eagles may have held Parks to his lowest rushing total of the year (154 yards) but that wasn’t the focus. The Eagles didn’t win.
Parks did, and his senior season had ended as planned.
Parks Sr. refused to talk about the culmination of an unprecedented career.
“It’s not over,” said the former Catawba defensive lineman. “It’s just the beginning.”
He looked over at his son, blood stains on that famous No. 2 jersey, white chalk from the sidelines covering his arms.
“Without a doubt, he’s No. 1,” the elder Parks said.
Scott Young’s assistant was asked whether he cried more when his son became North Carolina’s all-time leading rusher or on Saturday?
“All of it is special to me,” Daddy Parks said. “To be his dad and be in his life for all 18 years, I say, ‘Thank God for giving me a great son.’ ”
A few feet away Chapman appeared to be squeezing the air out of K.P.
Chapman is Young’s running backs coach, and his love for K.P. is intense.
“He’s just a special human being,” said Chapman, who took K.P. to the Army All-America Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, last year. “I’ve gotten closer to him than any player I’ve ever coached. We’ve spent a lot of time together.”
Chapman won’t forget all of those Thursday nights when he ate with Parks and other players. He won’t forget giving Parks a job at his business.
They were whispering in each other’s ear just after K.P. was named MVP of the championship game. What was being said?
“Just that we love each other,” Chapman said. “I knew I’d be crying today win or lose because of that relationship.”
K.P. has a tight relationship with many people wearing West Rowan blue, mainly the fans. In the aftermath of the victory, he hoisted his MVP plaque over his head and walked slowly toward the thousands of fans who drove to Carter-Finley Stadium from Rowan County to see his last game as a high school phenom.
“They’re important in supporting our team,” Parks said. “I felt like I needed to do that.”
A loud roar almost drowned out the emotional Falcon star.
“I gave it all I had today,” K.P. yelled above the cheers.
Nodding toward the Eastern Alamance team, he added, “Those boys on the other side? They gave all they had. At the end, I told my boys, ‘We’re going to do this. There’s no reason to come here and lose.’ ”
He didn’t lose.
Not this season, as the Falcons finished 16-0.
But as his father repeated, he was crying for joy, not sadness, over his son’s high school finale. It’s the beginning. Next stop: the University of Virginia.
“Now, I get to ride to Charlottesville every Saturday and watch him play,” Chapman said.
The tears of remembering the past were gone. The thought of K.P.’s future brought only smiles.