When Chris Parson walked off the field after Ravenwood’s loss at Summit seven weeks ago, he thought they would meet again.
He was right.
The Raptors (10-2) will return to Spring Hill to face the Spartans (12-0) in a Class 6A quarterfinal Friday night.
“They’re a really good team, so we figured we were going to have to see them again,” said Parson, the Raptors quarterback. “I kind of knew that we were going to see them again and now we’re here. We’re in the moment.”
Linebacker Keaten Wade intercepted a deflected pass in the second quarter, giving the momentum to Summit in a 49-28 win over Ravenwood back on Oct. 1.
The Raptors trailed 22-20 at the time, but the Spartans scored four consecutive touchdowns after the pick to take control.
“We just have to limit turnovers,” Parson said of the rematch. “Play our game, don’t get caught up into the hype and just take care of the football.”
Both teams are led by dual-threat quarterbacks who have committed to major colleges in the South.
But there are some significant differences between the two.
At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Summit’s Destin Wade is three inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than the 6-foot, 195-pound Parson.
“The style of offenses that they play in are a little different, so it’s had to compare them because they’re asked to do such different things,” Raptors coach Will Hester said.
Ravenwood uses a run-pass option offense while Summit utilizes a sling-T, a variation of the wing-T that features more passing than normal for that type of offense.
“A lot of times we kind of pass to set up the run and I think that Summit generally runs to set up the pass,” Hester said. “So depending on which way the game goes, they could be pretty run-dominant and we could be pretty pass dominant or vice versa depending on what the defenses do.”
Hester said Summit is built to be a physical running team whereas Ravenwood likes to spread opponents out.
Both quarterbacks have put up impressive numbers.
Parson has passed for 2,044 yards and 23 touchdowns, completing 62% of his passes with seven interceptions.
He’s rushed for 870 yards and 15 TDs, averaging 8 yards per carry.
Wade has passed for 1,047 yards and 13 TDs, completing 62% of his passes with just one interception.
He’s rushed for 1,809 yards and 25 TDs, averaging 12.1 yards per carry.
“I feel like I can utilize my game in multiple ways, but I do look at myself as a passer and I use my legs when needed whenever I need to make a play or improvise to help my team execute,” Parson said.
Parson has committed to Florida State while the Wade twins are bound for Kentucky.
Wade is a senior so he has an edge in experience over Parson, a junior.
Parson displayed his arm strength after a 2019 summer workout in Texas.
“My freshman year, I threw the ball 75 yards,” Parson said. “I threw it from the 35 and I threw it out of the back of the end zone.”
Ravenwood tracks its players with GPS every game to time their speed.
“I know that he runs right at 21 mph on the field,” Hester said of Parson. “Most of the colleges are using that same GPS tracking now. Our kids wear a little monitor and we track them during the game.”
Former Ravenwood receiver Van Jefferson, a starter for the Los Angeles Rams, has been tracked at 21.8 mph at practice.
“So (Chris) is within 1 mph of an NFL wide receiver,” Hester said.
Parson’s grandfather, Lexie Tate, was a teammate of Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice at B.L. Moor High School in Oktoc, Miss.
Parson said he is related to Rice, who won three Super Bowls with San Francisco and holds 36 NFL records.
“They told me he used to walk home from practice and then work with his dad,” Parson said of Rice. “Hard-working man. I guess that’s kind of why he had such a great football career.”
Parson has six dynamic receivers in his arsenal, but Lee Molette (6-3, 180) leads the way with 31 catches for 753 yards and eight TDs.
Two of his touchdowns came against Summit in the first game.
Many of his catches have come on the post route. His GPS speed is 20.8 mph.
“It’s on the dime,” Molette said of the passes that come his way from Parson. “All the accuracy and every ball is on time. It’s great.”
Molette has 10 offers, including Tennessee State, his mom’s alma mater.
He grew up across the street from TSU coach Eddie George, a former star running back for the Titans and Ohio State.
“The amount of times I went over there, I’ve seen all the trophies, the Heisman Trophy, the jerseys, the helmets, the videos, I’ve seen everything,” Molette said. “I lived three doors down from him. They’re definitely on the come up (at TSU).”
Molette and Parson played youth football together back when they were 9 or 10 in Una.
Ravenwood’s playoff motto is “48 for 48 more.”
“48 minutes in a football game,” Parson said. “Utilize those 48 minutes to win the game so we can play for 48 more. That’s the goal.”
Keaten Wade (6-4, 230) is known for his pass rushing so he will try to put lots of pressure on Parson.
Wade knows it will be tough to beat Ravenwood a second time although the Spartans defeated Brentwood twice, including last week’s second-round win.
“It’s definitely looking like it will be harder the second time around,” Wade said. “We know that they definitely want to beat us and they have a talented offense that our defense has got to stop. Hopefully, we’ll come out with a ‘W.’ ”
Ravenwood earned its quarterfinal appearance with a first-round win over Whitehaven and a victory at previously unbeaten Collierville (11-1) last week.
Containing Parson will be difficult for the Spartans. He passed for three TDs and 131 yards in the first game against Summit.
“He’s a mobile quarterback so he can do both: run and pass,” Wade said. “He’s an athletic freak, so our defense has to step up and keep him in the pocket and make adjustments in the game when needed.”
Keaten and Destin are Mr. Football semifinalists. Keaten has 60.5 tackles, five sacks, 18 tackles for a loss, four pass breakups, an interception return for a TD and a blocked punt.
“You don’t want to lose contain of (Parson) and then you don’t know what will happen after that,” Wade said. “We just want to try to limit the big plays and get pressure in the backfield as much as we can so we can disrupt the pass game.”
Safety Brady Pierce, Summit’s leading tackler (65.5), will probably have a busy night in the secondary.
Spartans coach Brian Coleman believes limiting big plays is the biggest key to containing Parson, the kind of player who can make something out of nothing.
On the last play of the first half in a win at Battle Ground Academy in August, Ravenwood lined up five wide to the right, but no one was open.
So Parson scrambled left, outran a few defenders, broke several tackles and zigzagged downfield for an electrifying 70-yard TD run.
“He’s gonna make plays, he’s gonna scramble, he’s gonna get yardage,” Coleman said. “I think you just limit the 50-, 60-yard touchdowns. He’s going to get his. No big plays.”
Parson made some good throws on slants in the first game, but Summit did a good job limiting the deep ball.
“He’s just as good as a runner as he is a thrower,” Coleman said. “I think now getting to do-or-die time, they’re running him more than they have before, which he’s very effective doing that.”
Parson passed for 129 yards and ran for 127 in the 32-22 win at Collierville, which posted its best record in 40 years. He passed for two TDs and ran for another.
Ravenwood’s Carter Pace rushed for 186 yards, so the Spartans can’t just key on Parson.
Summit averaged 44.8 points per game during the regular season, but its scoring average has dropped to 24 during playoff wins over Houston and Brentwood.
“Maybe I got conservative,” Coleman said of the 21-3 win over Brentwood. “Maybe I just didn’t want to give them the football, lose the football with offense. So we were just trying to run it and try to grind the clock out and keep that clock running.”
Ravenwood’s scoring average has decreased from 35.6 during the regular season to 26.5 in the playoffs so maybe the reason is just tougher postseason competition.
Summit’s defense has allowed only 10 points in the playoffs, but it might be tough to keep the score that low against Ravenwood.
Parson played for the Brentwood Blaze as a youth before his family moved to Texas.
He’s playing for his third team in as many years after spending his freshman season at Duncanville and his sophomore year at Red Oak.
Hester is glad he’s back in Brentwood.
“He has an elite arm, very strong arm strength, he’s super athletic,” Hester said. “Don’t get it twisted, he’s a quarterback first. Sometimes those guys with the dual-threat tag get that because they run really well and then throw.”
But Parson’s throwing ability opens up the Raptors’ run game.
His 23-yard TD pass to Molette with 6:30 left right after Whitehaven botched a punt snap gave Ravenwood a 21-14 win in the first round.
“I’ve never coached one like him,” Hester said. “He throws as good as the best we’ve had and runs as good as the best we’ve had.”
Parson is a vocal leader who took charge shortly after arriving from Texas in February. Teammates elected him to the players council in the spring.
His nickname is his initials, CP.
Hester said he can make all the throws. Now he’ll try to make some big ones in the rematch at Summit as the Raptors take a five-game winning streak into the showdown.
“I’m really thankful to have the season that we’re having so far, but we have unfinished business and I’m just ready to go,” Parson said.