Football edition: Cougars need picks from Parks

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 21, 2018

By Mike London

CHINA GROVE — Thairell Parks was known last year mostly because his first name is spelled a little differently than most. He wasn’t just another Tyrell.

But this season the senior cornerback (5-10, 160)  figures he’s going to be known for interceptions. He might lead the county. That’s a realistic goal. He’s willing to take some calculated gambles, and he has the experience and the athletic ability to make plays.

Carson head coach Joe Pinyan knew Parks was going to be a different player this season after what happened at Carson’s 7-on-7 scrimmages at Catawba this summer.

“Five games, four interceptions for Parks,” Pinyan said. ” He’s better physically and stronger mentally. I think last year he’d get burned, and it would linger with him a while.  But everyone gets beat. Even the best get beat now and then at cornerback,  and he’s learned a lot.  This year, if he gets beat, he’ll be able to move right on from it and make the next play.”

Parks is modest about all those summer interceptions. Summer interceptions aren’t the same as fall interceptions, and he knows that. Still, his confidence is at a different level than it was last year at this time.

“I did make a lot of 7-on-7 interceptions,” Parks said. “That’s because our guys pressured quarterbacks, made them throw before they wanted to throw it. That’s when interceptions happen.”

That’s true enough. All parts of a defense work hand in hand. Pressure leads to picks. Solid coverage leads to sacks.

“I think our team will be better in a lot of ways this season,” Parks said. “I am confident, and I’m one of those guys who can bring other guys up when they’re down, just like I know my teammates will pick me up if I get down.  As a defense, we’re tackling better than we did last year, wrapping up better, and tackling is also part of my job.”

His primary task is going to be to stand on an island alone in press coverage, while accepting the challenge of defending the other team’s top receiving threat. He’s going to be taking on quick guys like West Rowan’s Jalen Houston, Salisbury’s  Tryone Johnson and  East Rowan’s Sam Wall as well as bigger guys like North Rowan’s Quintuos Smith, but that’s a challenge he wants. He’ll get beat some, but he also plans to make some plays. And if he can limit people one-on-one, that means Carson has more bodies to commit to stopping the running game.

“You can’t play corner without a little bit of attitude and a short memory,” Pinyan said. “He has those things.”

Parks made his first interception of the regular season on opening night against South Rowan. That’s one more than he had all last year. That’s a good start.

Actually, Carson had only a handful of interceptions as a team last season. Spur Gavin McCulloh also picked off a pass on opening night. That was encouraging.

Parks is realistic about his size. He has no dreams about playing college football. But he does know exactly where he’s headed. The Marines always are looking for a few good men, and Parks is going to be one of them. He plans to enlist after he graduates.

“He’ll be a good Marine,” Pinyan said. “He’s got that attitude that even when things go wrong, we can fix it.”