Parkrose wrapped up its best football season in decades, losing a first-round playoff game to Springfield last month. Not only did the senior-laden team have a winning record overall—6-4, 6-3 Northwest Oregon Conference—but it also made it to the playoffs for the first time in four years as its conference’s number-four seed. Moreover, unlike the 2010 trip to Eugene where they were out of it by the third quarter against Marist Catholic, the Broncos were in it until the Millers scored a late touchdown, making the final score 25-14.
In a telephone interview a week after the tilt, Broncos second year head coach Maurice France—Coach Mo to players—feels getting to the playoffs was the best part of the season. “For us to be in the [Springfield] game the whole way, it was the high point of the season for my coaching staff and me,” he says. “It was a low point because we lost. For the kids and me, it was a high point. In the kids’ minds, they still think they won that football game.”
Marshawn Edwards, one of the acknowledged team leaders, in addition a two-way starter—one of only two on the team—said although no play stands out for him individually, lining up with teammates and beginning the season undefeated was his high point of the season. “Just getting out there and watching all my brothers fight with me was the highlight for me,” he says. “Going 4-0 was really great.”
Andre Johnson, the team’s other two-way starter, attributes this year’s success to balanced leadership on both sides of the ball. They already had senior quarterback Jonathan Boland, two-time NWOC Offensive Player of the Year. What they needed, according to Johnson, was a leader on defense, which they got when Tucker Perry transferred to Parkrose from neighboring Portland Christian for his senior year after the private school folded its football program. “The balance of the leadership was the difference between this year and last,” says Johnson. “Without Tucker, we wouldn’t have got much done; he knew every player’s role on every play.”
Boland agrees with Johnson’s assessment. “We dropped into the leadership [roles], me and Marshawn on offense, and Andre and Tucker on defense accepted leadership roles,” he says. “Tucker showed it more at practice; Marshawn and I showed it more in games.”
Springfield loss hurt
France thought Parkrose should have beat Springfield and advanced, but was foiled by the officiating crew’s home cooking. “As always, it’s hard to beat 16,” says France says, alluding to the five referees. “I thought we had won; we beat them pretty much on every phase of the game.” France contends Springfield held his defensive lineman on almost every play. “They had no answer for anyone on our defensive line,” says France. “They held Odessa [Harris] pretty much every play; they just wouldn’t call the penalty.” Because they wanted to keep the game moving, France said the refs told him they couldn’t call it on every play. “The ref told me, ‘We can’t make that call every time;’ but if they’re holding all game long, you just got to call that penalty.’”
France said he doesn’t mind losing but expects the referees to do their job. “If that’s your job, you need to do your job.” In addition, France said when he looked at the film, he realized referees took a touchdown away from Parkrose with a bad ball spot. “The touchdown Tyrell [Lee] caught three yards inside the end zone, they spotted at the three yard line,” he said. “He was clearly in the end zone.” Parkrose subsequently failed to score on four attempts. “It don’t bother me to lose games,” France went on; “I’ve lost games before. If you’re going to beat me, beat me. Don’t because the refs are giving you all the calls.”
Losing 18 seniors is a big blow to the program. France said no one he talks to thinks Parkrose will win a game next year. “Nobody thinks we’ll win a game next year,” France said. Nevertheless, he is not deterred. “My whole job is getting it turned around; we’ll be great in the front-eight part of the game; my whole defensive line is pretty much back.”
Losing so many seniors not only hurts the program, but also hurts emotionally. “… that’s when [at the fall sports banquet] the tears [are] going to come out,” says France. “This is a special group of kids. It’s going to be so hard to say goodbye to Jon, bye to Andre, bye to Marshawn, those three have been with me since they were sophomores.” Thinking about that got France thinking about the following year. “Next year, it’ll be harder to say goodbye to Chris Wilson, Robin Richmond; Robin’s been leading the team in tackles for three years.”
France said he has seen an increase in parental involvement and support in the three seasons he has been at Parkrose, and that he’ll miss not only the players, but also the parents. “When I first got the [head coaching] job, we did so much together to get the program where it is,” France said of his work with players’ parents. “That group of parents and kids that stuck by me is going to be tough to follow.”
In football-crazed America, a school football team that is successful not only creates interest in the team and school, but also brings the community together, figuratively and literally.
“Football galvanizes a community,” Parkrose Superintendent Fischer Gray says in an email. “The game is fun but the real benefit is how it brings us together rooting on our student heroes as a larger Parkrose community team.”
Since annexation to Portland in the mid 80s, Parkrose and its schools experienced dramatic demographic changes. Once a 6A school in the powerful Mt. Hood Conference, Parkrose dropped out of the higher classification altogether as its enrollment dwindled to 5A size (between 851 and 1,520 students; Parkrose has about 1,100).
For the last twenty years, Parkrose administrators dithered, paying only lip service to what successful athletic programs do for a school and community while watching its once-proud sports traditions wither away. In 2007, when the school board hired new superintendent Karen Fischer Gray, who arrived from relevant, state-title contending athletic program Coos Bay High School, sports took on a higher priority. It’s taken seven years, and although no football, baseball or basketball state championship plaques grace the trophy case, the attitude about sports has changed. “When I arrived, the football program was in disarray and spirit at the high school and in the community was low,” says Fischer Gray. “Now, our stadium is full to overfilling with a cheering crowd.”
Players also noticed the impact their achievement had on the community. “It was a really fun season with the coaches and all the guys,” said Tucker Perry. “We underachieved a little bit, but it was great for the Parkrose community for us to go to the playoffs and do as good as we did.” Perry, who also received his first all-league award this season, understands what it means for Parkrose to have a winner. “Parkrose has had so many losing seasons, it was great to see the team go out there and do good.” Despite playing in two semi-final games when he was at 2A Portland Christian, he said it doesn’t compare. “I’ve been to the semi-finals twice at PC,” says Perry. “It was just a different feeling in 5A; like, big school going to the playoffs.”
Senior quarterback Jonathan Boland is proud of what he accomplished on the field “We opened up the community to looking at football,” said. “We made the sports spirit come out; it made me feel good about myself, how we were doing on the field.”
France said he has seen a remarkable increase in attendance and interest in the last three years, especially away games’ attendance. “When I first started with Price (Tim Price, Parkrose head coach from 2008-2012), going on the road, we’d get maybe eight parents.” In just two years, that has dramatically changed. “The community was behind me from day one; it was a great thing to see,” says France. “Every game on both sidelines was packed out.
If we start winning next year, can you imagine how crazy that’ll be?”
Yes coach, we can.