Spotlight on: Gilbert Tigers
Hometown: Gilbert Arizona
By Brett Manney
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the first moon landing, Woodstock and the Vietnam War were all prevalent when Jesse Parker won his first high school football game as a head coach.
The year was 1969 – an era far different from today, as the Internet, cell phones and DVDs are now the norm.
Meanwhile, the Gilbert head coach now has 309 wins to his resume.
Times certainly have changed.
Parker was 29 when he first coached Phoenix Campbell high school and now, at 68, he is officially the all-time winningest coach in Arizona history, surpassing Karl Kiefer, who last coached at Mountain Point High.
For such a big accomplishment, one would figure that Parker is ecstatic about his milestone, but that’s not the case. According to Jason Skoda of the Arizona Republic, Parker said, “It’s hard to think of personal records when you are trying to prepare each week. I’m proud I have been in it this long and still have a connection with the kids.”
Extremely modest from a coach who has won so many games that his milestone is almost an afterthought compared to his game preparation and relationships formed throughout the years.
Indeed, Parker does have a connection that stems from coaching teenagers for 39 years and shows no signs of stopping. Moreover, he has five 5A state championships on his record, in addition to nine state championship game appearances.
Parker emphasizes that his players get the most out of their ability. While he might be critical at times, he still finds a way to win football games. With six wins this year and only two losses to powerhouses Hamilton (6-1, State PR: 77.78, Rank 6) and Salpointe Catholic (7-1, State PR: 71.45, Rank 8), Parker has produced another winning season with two games remaining, plus the potential for postseason play.
Yet, believe it or not, but there is company at the top for Parker. Tucson Amphitheater’s (4-4, State PR: 55.71, Rank 27) Vern Friedli, 72, has 307 career wins and his remaining three opponents are a combined 7-9.
It’s possible that there could be two active coaches who pass the career wins mark by the end of the regular season. Friedli, who has been coaching for 46 years, said to Casey Crowe of the Arizona Daily Star of his record, “It would be nice. But that’s not what we predicate everything on. And it never has been.”
This is just another perfect example of a class act putting a monumental milestone behind a simple league game.
The milestone win for Parker finally came to fruition last Friday when the Tigers defeated Fiesta League foe Highland (4-3, State PR: 52.60, Rank 25), 21-0.
And so while the world around him has changed drastically, Parker’s winning ways have not. When he won his 309th game, Parker handled his business like he won his first game almost 40 years ago.
Of course, minus the congratulatory text messages and digital camera photos capturing a moment well deserved.
Next up: October 31 at Chandler (State PR: 63.62, Rank: 13).
Got any teams you want featured in the next spotlight? E-mail editor Adam C. Warner at email@example.com.