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Clarke County’s Chris Parker resigns after 20 years as head football coach | Winchester Star

BERRYVILLE — Ask around about Clarke County High School’s Chris Parker, and the main theme that pops up is how much he cares about other people.

When it comes to his son Peyton, his love knows no bounds. And his desire to spend more time with his only child is the reason why he’s resigning after 20 memorable years as a head football coach and 28 years total as a coach at Clarke County. Parker has coached 37 years dating back to his graduation from Shepherd College in 1982.

The 60-year-old Parker led the Eagles to a 145-79 record over 20 seasons, including a 120-34 record over the last 13 seasons in which Clarke County made the playoffs every year.

Highlighted by Clarke County’s first-ever state championship game appearance in 2015, each of those seasons ended with winning records and at least six wins, a feat Clarke County only pulled off once between 1993 and 2006.

Parker — who resides in Inwood, W.Va. — will continue to work as a social studies teacher at the school he’s been at since 1992. But his afternoons and weekends next fall will now be devoted to spending time his son, who is a junior at Musselman High School in Inwood.

Parker said he started thinking about stepping down last month when he received an award for his career at the American Football Coaches Association Club 35 convention (for people who have coached at least 35 years) that was held Jan. 12-14 in Nashville, Tenn. Both Parker’s wife Jennifer and Peyton made the trip with him.

“I did some hard thinking when I was down there,” said Parker, who was inducted into Clarke’s Hall of Fame in 2011. “I didn’t want it to be five, 10 years from now, and think, ‘Well, I didn’t have time to spend with my son.’”

Peyton plays golf for Musselman, but couldn’t play this past year because of four cracked vertebrae. Peyton also has interest in competitive target shooting with rifles.

“I just want to do little things with him, like taking him to practice or [physical therapy],” said Parker, who’s not ruling out a return to coaching in the future. “I figure I can be his caddie. I just want to spend time doing those things with him. There’s more [to life] than football season.”

Last week, Parker informed his assistant coaching staff of Casey Childs (also the school’s director of athletics since 2008 and coach since 2007), Brent Emmart, Andre Kidrick, Rick Sjostrom, Matt Ernst, Jon Novick, Jesse Hudson, Grant Shaw and Chandler DeHaven. Parker’s resignation became official at Monday’s school board meeting and he informed the team’s players at school on Wednesday.

Parker’s dedication to football is what made him so successful. For example, Childs notes that Parker has spent a lot of time honing Clarke County’s feared single-wing offense, which has been consistently dominant with at least 200 rushing yards per game every year since Clarke County installed it in 2008.

But it’s the person that Parker is that impresses his assistant coaches and players even more than his football acumen.

Childs first got to know Parker when Childs was a senior in 1992-93. After spending 1991-92 as a substitute teacher in Morrisville, Pa., Parker arrived at Clarke County in the fall of 1992 as an assistant football coach and head baseball coach (Parker led the Eagles baseball team to a state semifinal appearance in his final season as coach in 2000). Childs played on both teams and also had him as a teacher.

“He made everything fun no matter what it was,” said Childs of what it was like to play for Parker. “He would get on you, but you knew he cared about you. He made you want to do good for him in the classroom and on the field. He has that unique way of getting the best out of everybody.”

“He’s the type of coach you feel comfortable around,” said Casey’s son Colby, Clarke County’s quarterback the last three seasons. “You can tell him anything, and he’ll tell you anything back. He made me a better player.”

Novick arrived at Clarke County in 2008 after moving from Arizona, and he was immediately won over. Novick said he arrived in Clarke County before all his possessions arrived and was sleeping on an air mattress in a rented house, so Parker provided him with clothes and other items while he waited. Parker then proceeded to mentor him as both a teacher and football coach.

It wasn’t always easy for Parker running the Eagles’ program. Parker took over a team that went 0-10 in 1999 and proceeded to go 0-10 in his first year. In the first game, Clarke County lost 72-0 to Potomac Falls.

The Eagles got better by going 5-5 three times and 4-6 two times over the next five seasons before breaking through and making the playoffs in 2007. The Eagles won the first of four straight Bull Run titles and finished 8-3.

The next year saw Clarke County introduce a simplified version of its vaunted single-wing as a way to generate offense when quarterback Zach Shiley got injured. Parker and the Eagles made it more complete in 2009, and he’s run it so well that he’s twice been asked to be a featured speaker for conferences on the single wing.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed [working on the single wing],” Parker said. “There’s a million ways to run the single wing. I like talking to people and putting together a package and adding to things, and now everybody comes to us wanting information about it. Our kids bought into it. It’s been well worth it.”

It helped the Eagles get to the state championship game in 2015. The Eagles dominated Union 43-15 in the state semifinals in Berryville before losing to Appomattox County in the final.

“[Union] was just a physical, hard-hittting, dominating game by us,” Parker said. “That game showed we belonged as a program.”

Parker said he appreciates everything his football assistants have done. Four of them are former players and more than half the staff has been with him at least a dozen years.

“They went head and shoulders above the call of duty with everything,” Parker said. “It was really hard to tell them. But they’ll still win, and I hope they do.”

He also appreciates the players. This year, they helped the Eagles win a share of the Bull Run District title, their ninth district championship in the last 13 years. Clarke County went 8-3 overall and 6-1 in the Bull Run District this year.

“When I spoke to the players [on Wednesday], I told them that I appreciate them and I love them,” Parker said.

Parker said he’s loved everything about coaching at Clarke County.

“It’s been a privilege and blessing to be able to coach here,” Parker said. “Clarke County is a great place to coach and work.

“When I started coaching, I wanted to respect the game, coach, and have a program that respected football and how you’re supposed to do it. I wanted to do what’s best for the players, and I wanted to win.”

As far as hiring Parker’s replacement, all Childs would say is that they hope to have someone in place “in the very near future.”

Whoever it is will have a tough act to follow.

“I think we’ve got some very knowledgeable people on the staff, and he lets you coach,” Childs said. “As long as you wanted to do something that was sound in nature and was good for kids and good for the program, he was 100 percent supportive. He was one of the coaches who let you coach without being overbearing, but at the same time he had high expectations to get things done the right way.

“Ultimately, it was an absolute honor to play for him and to coach with him. He’s a great man, no question. Now it’s our jobs to carry on the tradition of Clarke football.”

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