By Phil Stacey
---- — PEABODY — He has two, hopefully three, games remaining in his high school football career, and doesn’t plan on continuing to strap on the pads and his helmet in college.
But Dave Woods, his coach at Bishop Fenwick High School, doesn’t believe this is the last time that football and Tommy Parsons will intertwine.
“He’s probably going to be a football coach some day ... a very, very good football coach,” Woods said of Parsons, a 17-year old wideout and defensive back for the 10-0 Crusaders. “Tommy has an unbelievable sense for the game; he sees it better than anyone. He understands opponents’ tendencies, probably watches more film than any kid on our team and just has a knack for where the ball is going to be.”
You’d better believe, then, that Parsons will be completely prepared tomorrow night when Bishop Fenwick meets Abington in the Division 5 state semifinals at Woburn’s Connolly Memorial Stadium (7 p.m.). While he’ll have little else to go on but the game film exchanged by the two coaches, Parsons will be as prepared as he can be for whatever the Green Wave (9-1) throw at him and his teammates.
“We know they’re a power team that runs the Wing-T,” said the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Peabody native. “We’ll need to do our jobs, read our keys and trust in ourselves.”
Parsons is a bit of a throwback player in that he’s not at all interested in personal glory; his satisfaction comes from helping others wearing the same uniform as him succeed.
“I just like doing my role and helping everyone get in the right positions where they should be,” he said of his defensive mindset. “On offense, I take the most pride in my blocking. If I can set the edge and someone like Rufus (Rushins) or Charlie (Maistrellis) or Eric (Razney) can run by me for a touchdown, that’s the most satisfying thing for me.”
But don’t mistake his being humble for a lack of athleticism. While he doesn’t possess any of the typical cliches (biggest, fastest, strongest), he more than makes up for that with on-field intelligence and a knack for making big plays at crucial times.
Woods cites Fenwick’s clash with rival St. Mary’s of Lynn last month where Parsons caught St. Mary’s speedster Jordan Manthorne from behind not because he was faster, but more because of pure desire and taking the quickest route to the ball. Fenwick won the game handily and with it, the Catholic Central League Large title.
“In another game against Cardinal Spellman, Tommy made some big plays that showed up on the stat sheet ... and some bigger plays that didn’t,” said Woods. “It wasn’t until you go back and watch the film and say, ‘How did so-and-so get by that guy?’ or ‘Why was it so easy for so-and-so to make that tackle?’, and you see it was Tommy that allowed both of those things to happen.
“Even on offense, Tommy throws big blocks and runs great routes. He’s smart enough to think, ‘I’ll take the corner deep so Charlie can run an underneath route, get open and really make something happen after the catch.’ It’s rare for a high school kid to think that way; I can’t remember the last one we had that was really like Tommy.”
He even makes his presence felt on special teams, where he’s blocked a few punts and is the contain guy on Fenwick’s kickoff team, where no one has gotten outside of him all season.
Parsons, whose twin sister Taylor is a football cheerleading captain (and whose older sister, Jess, also attended Fenwick), said it’s a matter of transferring what he picks up during film study onto the field with him.
“I’d like to think I’m an intelligent player and can see things develop quickly,” said Parsons, the son of Karen and Tom Parsons and owner of a 3.2 GPA. “I like to try and think of what play teams will run and where guys will be. It’s about tendencies, situations and, depending on a team’s offense, what plays they can run from what distance.”
Having started his career in Peabody Pop Warner when he was seven years old, Parsons grew up playing in the Tanner City with many of his Fenwick teammates including Razney, Maistrellis and quarterback Nick Bona. He knows that no matter what happens tomorrow night, they’ll have at least one more game together: Thanksgiving morning at home against Pingree. They want one more, though: a victory against Abington guarantees the Crusaders a spot in the Division 5 state championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro Dec. 7.
So before he heads off to college (where he hopes to play baseball and study exercise science), Parsons wants to make the most of the time he has left on the gridiron.
“I’m kind of afraid of it ending; it’s been such a big part of my life,” admitted Parsons. “It definitely makes you play harder and want to make the most of every moment.”