Kurt Friess is no stranger to Parsons, Kansas. He’s a former player for the Vikings in the 1980s that went on to play at Pittsburg State. He would later become an elementary principal in his hometown, where he still serves today in Parsons. This season Friess added some more to his already busy schedule as he became a first-year head coach for the high school football program.
Not only did he become the head coach, he’s done a heck of a job doing it in his first year. He’s also got the whole city of Parsons excited about football, something we haven’t seen since starting Sports in Kansas in 2012.
The Vikings are 6-2 this season, one year after going 1-8 and not being competitive in nearly every football game in 2017. In fact, Parsons won just five games combined in 2015, 2016, and 2017. In 2018, Parsons took district runner-up in a competitive district that featured Galena, Columbus, Baxter Springs, Caney and Frontenac. Parsons only two losses came to Frontenac (7-6) and Galena (52-14) in the district championship. Parsons hasn’t had a playoff win since 1976 and is in the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Yes, we know that the 1970’s, 1980’s, 1990’s, early 2000’s were much difficult to get a playoff spot in a district that only allowed one team out and the powerhouse days of Fort Scott and Pittsburg High. So while the new playoff format in 3A allows more teams in we still need to give major credit to Parsons for being night and day from one year ago.
“It’s been great. Our kids deserve this. They’ve overcome a lot of adversity and earned this. And about the 42 years without a win, about 20 of those years Parsons fielded some really good teams and only one team got out of the district. Pittsburg was winning state titles, Fort Scott as well with Bob Campbell. I tell our kids there is tradition here and this is something to be proud of getting into the playoffs.” Friess said.
It’s no secret that Parsons has used their speed to put themselves as a playoff team in 2018. Last years 4x100 state runner-up team in 4A is all on this years Vikings team. That includes Dariq Williams, Davonte Yates, Gage Friess and Daquan Johnson.
Friess, the son of head coach Kurt Friess, has passed for over 1,400 yards and rushed for nearly 500 more this year as a senior since coming back from injury last season. Johnson is one of the best junior multiple sport athletes in Kansas and can play every skill position on the field. He also has seven interceptions on defense to rank among the state’s leaders. Williams, who has been banged up with injuries and will likely miss the rest of the year, has an eye for the football and had 66 tackles over the first seven games. Williams and Johnson, two of the best 4A-II basketball players in the state last season for the 4th place Vikings, are also two of the best return guys in the state. Senior Patch Loadholtz has had a breakout year at receiver in which he has over 600 yards and 10 touchdowns. Yates, one of the best triple jumpers in Kansas, also has over 300 yards this season. Nolan Proehl and Anthony Pousher have also been big in the receiving game in giving Friess more options.
“Our kids are unselfish. It is about the team. We have a lot of skill guys that may have huge numbers somewhere else, but we spread it out. They don’t care who gets the credit. It says a lot about our players.” Freiss said.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Schibi, who became a father for the first time on Wednesday, has also done a great job spreading the ball out all over the place for the Vikings, where it’s nearly impossible to key on one certain player. Schibi, a former quarterback for the Vikings, knows the game well from being the starting quarterback at Independence Community College in 2007 and 2008. While Parsons has battled injuries and is thin on the lines, a place the program has always seemed to struggle, they’ve been big in special teams, big plays and the takeaway game to give themselves a chance in every game. The line play may not headline the tops in the state in 3A but the skill guys certainly do, but the line has stepped up just enough this year to give the Vikings a chance.
Defensively the Vikings are led by Joel Schibi who has had a breakout year with over 80 stops from his linebacker position as a senior and of course the seven interceptions by Johnson. Rodney Welch, who is also out this week, has had 58 tackles, 18 of those for loss. Croix Hogan has 45 stops. Loadholtz, Williams, and Yates are also stepping up big week after week. Ricky Ellis and Luke Wolgamott, last years Sports in Kansas 4A-II Baseball Player of the Year, have also played key parts but are out with injuries.
Parsons gets Girard in the round one matchup at home this Thursday for a shot at their first playoff win in 42 years. The Trojans are led by senior Chandler Humble and Evan Troike. Girard (5-3) is a team that will be run heavy and like to control time of procession.
“They are a very well coached team with a lot of good players. They have a Pitt State legend (Neal Philpot) as a football coach. They’ll play hard and so will we. We will be ready.” Freiss said.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. this Thursday in Parsons at Marvel Park.
Labette Bank, a proud supporter of Sports in Kansas and local athletics, congratulates the Vikings on an awesome 2018 season and best of luck over the 2018 playoffs.