Austin Parker was calm and composed during halftime as East Hall found itself in a neck-and-neck battle Friday against Jackson County. His confident body language was reassuring to East Hall coach Bryan Gray, especially from his dynamic pocket-passing quarterback, who isn’t known for saying a whole lot.
“He was just very calm at halftime, just eating his popsicle,” the Vikings’ coach said. “All he said to the other guys is, ‘We got this.’”
And in the second half, Parker got into gear, turning in his fourth consecutive 300-yard passing game for East Hall (3-1) as it left Jefferson with a 45-26 victory against the Panthers (3-2). Parker finished throwing for 305 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 108 yards and another score for the Vikings, who are 3-1 for the first time in four years.
For his efforts, Parker is The Times’ Football Player of the Week.
“We have a lot of confidence in Austin and all of our weapons we have on offense,” Gray said. “Austin has great vision, awareness in the pocket and outstanding speed.”
Parker was making all the right reads against the Panthers in the second half, even when plays started to break down. He found fellow senior wide receiver Sedrion Morse on a 75-yard touchdown throw in the third quarter and also connected with stocky running back Cambren Harrison on a screen pass that went for a 50-yard score.
Parker’s rushing touchdown came on East Hall’s next drive in the third quarter after his touchdown pass to Morse. On the run, Parker exhausted all of his passing options, then tucked and ran through a wide-open crease at the line. Once he got about 10 yards down the field, Gray said he could sense it would be a touchdown.
“Austin hit that crease and I could see the defenders were taking bad angles,” Gray said.
As incredible as a 400-yard offensive showing sounds for Parker, it was actually right on par with his production for East Hall as the season nears the midway point. Parker’s season started with a 457-yard, five-touchdown night in a loss to Habersham Central. Since then, East Hall’s quarterback has added a 307-yard passing night with six touchdowns against Johnson, and 372 yards through the air with four scores against Chestatee.
As nice as the start has been, Parker wants to keep the good momentum going. The Vikings host Lumpkin County to open Region 7-3A play Friday in Gainesville.
Lumpkin County will be without head coach Shane Williamson, who is serving a one-game suspension, per GHSA rules, for his ejection from last Friday’s game against Chestatee in Gainesville.