Friday, September 10, 1999

Coach: 'Mariemont is coming back'


Longtime assistant finally in top job

BY CAREY HOFFMAN
Enquirer contributor

        Perhaps the most pleasant story in the mostly pleasant Cincinnati Hills League this young football season is that of John Parker at Mariemont.

        Parker, Mariemont's new head coach, essentially had resigned himself to the status of a lifetime assistant. With 32 years in the game and the possibility of retirement on the horizon, he could accept his fate and be satisfied.

        Then, Mariemont coach Tom Crosby — for whom Parker had been running defenses over the last 19 years — suddenly resigned to become the school's principal. He barely paused in naming Parker as his successor on the sideline.

        So far, Mariemont in the Parker era is out to a 2-0 start. The Warriors host 2-0 Reading at 7:30 tonight, when the CHL opens league play with a combined record of 15-1 among its eight teams.

        “This has been a great experience,” Parker said. “I told myself years ago that head coaching wasn't a big deal, and I believed it — until it happened.”

        The big things, like coaching during the game, have come easy. It's the little things, Parker said, that make his promotion demanding.

        “I've had a hard time learning to call myself the head coach,” Parker said. “Sometimes, I've come in and we haven't gotten the meetings started on time because I'm still waiting for Tom to come in.”

        That's understandable when considering that Parker first started in his assistant's role in the '70s at Moeller under Gerry Faust. Even today, Parker retains an irrepressible enthusiasm when talking about football reminiscent of Faust.

        He left Moeller to join Ralph Staub at UC. When Staub's staff was fired after the 1980 season, Parker joined his old softball buddy Crosby at Mariemont, where they won 71 percent of their games, including a 30-game unbeaten streak from 1994-96 highlighted by a trip to the state title game in 1995.

        Along the way, Parker applied for a few head coaching positions but never could line up one that he considered desirable enough to take. He stopped applying about 10 years ago. “If I was going to be a head coach, it would have to be somewhere where they wanted to have a (complete) program and somewhere with a good community behind it,” he said.

        Thanks to his patience, that situation turned out to be Mariemont.

        Crosby, Parker and the program's other longtime assistants — Ted Hall (20 years), Jerry Summerville (20 years) and Jeff Timmers (16 years) — built Mariemont into one of the premier small-school programs in the area.

        “We've had this system for 20 years. There have been kids in this system whose dads I coached,” Parker said. “I'd be a fool to come in and make changes from the things we've done in the past.”

        After posting just an 11-9 record over the last two years, Mariemont under Parker looks to be back on track with the help of 10 juniors who started a year ago.

        A strong sign came last Friday, when Mariemont defeated Columbus-area power Bishop Hartley 14-6. Hartley had beaten Mariemont the previous two seasons.

        “We'd like coaches around the state to recognize that we're not going to go 5-5 this season,” senior captain Tim Nisonger said. “We're excited to have Coach Parker out there. He's always been a big personality within the team. He's got the same kind of enthusiasm as the kids.”

        Parker also has big goals. The top one is the same: winning a state title. With Mariemont moving up to Division IV this year, that goal didn't get any easier for the rookie coach.

        “I told our kids before the (Hartley) game that it was a big game,” Parker said, “a chance to show people around the state that Mariemont is coming back.”

High School Football Page



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