Thanksgiving break is much-anticipated by students, but the Panthers' 50-plus football players and crew of student trainers are happy to still be working every day this week. Playing after Thanksgiving is a goal-setting milestone among Texas high school football programs in that it must mean it's been a successful season if the Panthers (11-1) are still playing after Thanksgiving _ when 90 percent of all the state's schools have been eliminated to end their season.
The Panthers have advanced to the TAPPS Division II state semifinals for the second-consecutive season. Parish meets Grapevine Faith at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Birdville Fine Arts & Athletic Complex just northeast of Fort Worth.
While school has been out for students this week, the Panthers have been practicing M onday through Wednesday evening with a Thursday morning practice.
"This is great," Parish coach Scott Nady said. "Our players have been working a year to get back to this point and they couldn't be more excited than to be here at school every afternoon this week."
Nady, a former star player at Dallas' W.T. White, played at the Univeristy of California and has had several Cal players as assistants help build the program since its first varsity game five years ago.
Nady was a successful high school coach in North California, including having a long-standing relationship with former Oregon star Dennis Dixon, who brought his NFL Super Bowl championship ring from playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers to a Nady summer camp two summers ago.
If Parish defeats Grapevine Faith, a TAPPS power moving up from Division III, the winner advances to the TAPPS DII state championship on Dec. 4 at Temple's Wildcat Stadium.
Parish won its 10th-consecutive game with 21-12 victory over Austin Hyde Park at McGregor's Bulldog Stadium last Saturday afternoon. Parish reached the state semifinals last season before falling to eventual state champion Prestonwood Christian.
Parish sophomore Zach Shelley rushed for 243 yards and two touchdowns on runs of 88 and 35 yards.
Parish broke open a 6-6 tie as senior defensive back Charles Cook turned in a game-changing play after Cook returned a blocked field goal attempt 63 yards for a touchdown with only four seconds left to give Parish a 13-6 halftime lead.
Parish's stalwart defense also is led by Arizona commit Rob Hankins, who has been a critical component in the program since arriving as a freshman from Plano four years ago.
Cook's standout season with a dozen interceptions has been a highlight of the Parish season. Through a digital voting contest, Cook was selected as The Dallas Morning News' Hero of the Week when the Dallas private school with less than 400 students in grades 9 through 12 outvoted players from schools nearly 10 times its size.
Parish had another strong effort from a defense which stopped Hyde Park twice within Parish's own 10-yard line. With Hyde Park having a first-and-goal at the Parish 8-yard line, Parish junior defensive lineman Nico Padilla made an interception he returned 57 yards to set up a Parish score.
Selected as the District 2-4A MVP as a defensive lineman, Nady expects the 6-0, 250 defensive lineman to be another top college prospect from Parish for the Class of 2012.