LOS ANGELES — Short-handed Washington Prep rallied to defeat Santee, 32-21, in an L.A. City Section non-league opener Aug. 28 to make Larry Parker’s debut as head coach a successful one.
Because of eligibility issues that are still pending, the visiting Generals had only 18 players suited up.
“It was our 18 against their 60, but we battled and the kids went out there and really executed,” Parker said. “All that training and running we did during the summer really paid off for us, too.”
Quarterback Darius Barlowe scored two touchdowns, including a 98-yard kickoff return, and connected with Adonis Warren for a 45-yard yard touchdown pass play to lead Washington to the victory.
Trailing 15-14 in the third quarter, Barlowe scooped up a punt attempt that was blocked by defensive end Barren Holts and returned it for a touchdown to spark the comeback.
“That was a real momentum-changer,” Parker said.
It was at that point that Parker moved Holts from the interior to end and the move paid off.
“Everything just clicked after that and our defense held,” said Parker, who praised the play of Clevis Edmond, Shakim Clark and Dante Foley on the defensive line and middle linebacker Charles Watt. Watt also took a short pass reception and ran 40 yards to the Santee 3-yard line to set up a score.
“The defensive line did their job by making play after play,” said Parker, adding that his first win as head coach at any level was very emotional for him.
“My [deceased] mother wasn’t here to see this, but I know that she was up above looking down on me,” Parker said.
His mother, Jessie Ruth Baker Parker, died of cancer 10 years ago.
“It’s because I lost my mother to cancer that I ask my players to volunteer with me to participate in events that support the fight against cancer or raise awareness about it.”
Parker, a first-year walk-on coach who works for the county Department of Mental Health Services as a disturbance coordinator, has his work cut out for him at Washington. The Generals, in what is arguably the toughest league in the L.A. City Section, have won only three Marine League games in 10 years, and have gone 27-48 overall in that time.
Parker’s resume includes 11 seasons as an assistant coach at East Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, Pasadena City and Santa Monica colleges, working mostly with the defensive line or overseeing strength and conditioning. He’s also been on the staffs at Istrouma High School in Baton Rouge, La., and Pasadena’s Marshall Fundamental.
His credentials impressed Principal Dechele Byrd, who hired Parker to turn the team around.
“Ms. Byrd has been very supportive of what we’re trying to do, and is a big advocate of us here at school and in the community,” he said.
A stern disciplinarian, Parker is working toward changing the culture and the mind set at Washington. He stresses hard work in the weight room, on the field, and in the classroom. Players are required to meet criteria that are set forth in a weekly progress report. Failure to meet the standards will result in being suspended for that week’s game.
“I’m strict because I want to see these kids walking on the stage in front of their families receiving their diplomas on graduation day,” Parker said. “Some of us as coaches lose sight that it’s about kids getting their education. It’s important that those requirements are fulfilled. We’ve set high standards, and I’m not lowering them.”
The Generals have bought into the system that Parker has put in place and Parker is impressed with their work ethic and hard work in the weight room, especially.
“They have paid the price in the weight room and that work ethic will give them the discipline they need to go a long way,” Parker said.
Washington arguably also has the playing skills to go with it.
“We’ve got some explosive guys that can make some things happen in open space,” he said. “I like that.”
Barlowe is one of the game-breakers that Parker refers to. The senior is a multi-talented athlete, who can play several positions on offense and defense and will be Washington’s starting quarterback.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete who can play on the next level,” said Parker, adding that Barlowe will return kickoffs and punts.
Washington plays Dymally Sept. 3 at Dymally. The Challengers (0-1) lost their season opener to Panorama City, 21-20. Santee travels to Wilson (1-0) Thursday. The Mules defeated Roybal, 37-0 last week.