HURRICANE — No one would blame Hurricane starting quarterback Josh Parker if he was a little starstruck or intimidated with his current role on the Tigers team.
“I played on defense, but hardly ever got on the field as quarterback in the JV games,” Parker said. “It’s kind of crazy how things work out.”
But here’s the thing. Despite being thrust into the spotlight after starter Kaden Langston broke his ankle and backup Cole Stratton quit the team, Parker has been anything but skittish.
“He’s one cool customer,” Hurricane coach Steve Pearson said. “That’s why we like him so much.”
Parker hadn’t played a down of varsity on offense all year until Halloween night. He had been informed earlier in the week that Stratton, who was the starter on JV and the varsity backup, was no longer on the team. Then, after a botched snap on an extra point in Hurricane’s first-round playoff game against Park City on Oct. 31, Langston tried to improvise and was buried by two PC defenders. He didn’t get up.
All of the sudden, with Hurricane trailing 7-6 in a loser-out game, Parker trotted onto the field, still sporting his defensive back No. 30 on his jersey.
“As coaches, we always tell kids to be ready, because you never know when your number is going to be called,” Pearson said. “Josh is a perfect example of a young man who was ready when it was his time, physically and mentally as well.”
It doesn’t hurt that Parker was a fanatic 13-year-old when his older brother, Taylor, led the Tigers to their first-ever state championship back in 2011.
“He’s doing great, isn’t he,” said Taylor, who just returned from a mission to Mexico and plans on playing football at Southern Utah. “He stepped in and did a great job. I’m really proud of him.”
The younger Parker said it has helped having his brother back from his mission.
“The biggest thing he told me is to just stay calm,” Josh said. “Stay calm and play my game.”
Pearson didn’t pull any punches last week, despite Parker making just his second start and facing a ferocious Desert Hills defense. Hurricane, which normally passes only about 10 times a game, came out and threw the ball for 59 yards on the first drive of the game, including a wide receiver screen on third-and-3 from the DH 8-yard line.
“We had complete confidence in him,” Pearson said. “Plus, one thing that doesn’t enter into the conversation outside of this high school is that we have a pretty good little corps of wide receivers. Noah Elison and Kyle Williams are a good tandem and they’re dangerous. We don’t utilize them as much as other teams might because we run the wing-T, but it’s nice to be able to use that when we need to.”
Parker has taken some big hits, including a major shot in a 32-15 Hurricane win over Juan Diego. But he delivered a strike to Nick McDaniel on the play that went for a 63-yard touchdown.
“I don’t really see the rushers, I guess I just sort of feel the pressure,” Parker said. “I’m willing to take a hit for the team if it helps us win. The coaches talked to me and told me we were going to throw a lot more than we usually do. I was prepared for it.”
Pearson said Parker was on their radar, but it was the long-distance variety.
“There are several types of radar,” Pearson said. “He was on our radar for down the road a couple of years. We never thought we’d have to use him this soon. But he really has played well.”
With Parker playing so well heading into Friday’s championship game, the coaches have to feel a little more at ease.
“Well, actually, we’re pretty nervous about what to do if Josh gets hurt,” Pearson said. “His backup is one of our offensive linemen, Josh Lawrence. He could end up playing O-line, D-line and quarterback in the same game. Let’s hope not, but it could happen.”
Parker and the Tigers battle Dixie Friday morning at 11 a.m. in the 3AA state championship game in Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Ed. note: This story was originally written for and published by the Deseret News and was authored by St. George News sports editor Andy Griffin.
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