Phenomenal is the only way to describe Kyler Parker’s 2020 football season for the Moore County Raiders.
For his efforts in leading the Raiders to an 11-2 record and the state playoff quarterfinals, the senior quarterback was named a finalist for Mr. Football and is the Lakeway Publishers Player of the Year and first-team quarterback for the Southern Middle Tennessee Football Team.
Parker was 154-of-265 passing for 2,412 yards and 29 touchdowns to lead the state and racked up 1,118 yards and 16 touchdown rushing to become one of the three finalists in Class 1A for the Mr. Football honor.
But Parker insists he would have been nothing without his teammates.
“Obviously, those things would not come without the success of our team this year,” Parker said. “If it wasn’t for that we wouldn’t have had the individual accolades that we had this year.
“(Being a finalist for Mr. Football) definitely was a huge honor. Going into this year I set my goals pretty high for myself, and I feel like I met them, but I couldn’t have done it without anybody else on the team. … without the other 10 guys on the field with me at the same time, it would not have been possible.”
Teammate Kaden White was a Mr. Football semifinalist and is the Lakeway football team’s Defensive Player of the Year. White made first team as both a wide receiver and defensive back. Other Moore County Raiders on the Lakeway second team are running back Tyler Smith, defensive tackle Zac Carawan and linebacker Donavin Pearson.
All those gaudy statistics were but a dream for Parker two years ago. That’s when he transferred from Tullahoma High School to Moore County. He set those high goals for himself, but first of all, he wanted to be on a winner.
“My expectations were just to come in and play to the best of my ability and do whatever it took to help the team win games. … ready to get started and help the team however I had to.”
Once here, Parker played running back and defensive back during his junior year and picked up some reps at quarterback, backing up Brayden Cashion. He got the start at quarterback in the final game of 2019, but did nothing remarkable, nothing that foreshadowed what was to come.
“That last game was my first high school start and I was pretty nervous,” Parker said, “and it was really cold, like 30-something degrees. … I was excited for the opportunity, but at the same time I was kind of nervous. I think that motivated me to work hard to get better going into my senior year. I think it paid off.”
Then coach Jason Dobbs resigned to take an assistant job at Oakland and coach Kris White came in, along with offensive coordinator T.J. Christian. Out went the wing-T, in came the spread.
“I think a lot of the guys were excited about the spread because we knew we could feature all the athletes we had and we could get our playmakers in space.”
And, as luck would have it, that’s the offense he learned at Tullahoma.
“I was very familiar with it. Eighth-grade was the first year that I ever started with it, in middle school.
The middle school’s plays were the same Tullahoma’s high school team ran so there was familiarity when the players got to high school. That paid off when the spread came to Moore County.
“Most of the plays we ran this year were all the same … as far as concepts, I was very familiar with everything we did.”
Parker won the starting job and led the Raiders to wins over Cascade and Community, but his breakout game came against Cornersville, when he threw for 243 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 95 yards and another touchdown in a 33-23 win.
“Our game plan going into that game was we knew we were going to be able to throw the ball because their secondary was weak. They had a good run defense and they would be able to stop the run so we had to beat them through the air. We noticed that they were weaker on one side of the field than the other, so we tried to go after them and be aggressive in the passing game and take some shots deep. … Dylan Scruggs had two touchdowns late in the second quarter and we really kind of blew it open.”
From there he led the Raiders on a seven-game winning streak. It was the seventh win that was his standout performance of the year. Parker passed for 316 yards and five touchdowns in a stunning win over powerhouse Huntingdon. He ran for a sixth touchdown in the 42-22 victory.
Parker and his teammates were excited to play on the turf field at Huntingdon and to face a school that’s been a playoff nemesis for the Raiders and exact some revenge.
“We came out very motivated and got up on them early. … They were manning up on us in the secondary so we knew that athletically we had the advantage and we took advantage of it.”
The season ended the following week with a rematch against Fayetteville City, the eventual Class 1A state champion, and the only team to beat Moore County. Even in the loss, Parker shined with 214 yards passing and two touchdowns and 117 yards rushing and another TD in the bitter 38-29 loss.
“Part of it stinks because we were right with them both times we played them,” he said of the state champion Tigers, “but at the same time to be able to say that that the only team that was able to beat you was the state champion says a lot about your team.”
His football-playing days are likely not over. Parker said he’s listening to several schools – Sewanee, Cumberland, Rhodes, Carson-Newman and Maryville among them – where he might continue his academic and football career.
Wherever he goes, he – and his teammates — will leave behind Friday nights full of memories for Moore County fans to relish for years to come.