RALEIGH — Evan Parker just wanted to have fun.
I grew up like any other kid; you always want to win playing sports, he said.
Parker hadnt had the type of success playing at Sanderson High School hed dreamed of as a child, so when Wake County schools unveiled its choice-based school assignment option this fall, Parker took advantage.
His options came down to Millbrook, Sanderson and Leesville Road, Parker said. With Millbrook having lost star running back Keith Marshall to graduation, and Parker looking for a change of pace from Sanderson, he zeroed in on Leesville.
If theres this opportunity thats presented before me and I dont take it, I dont want to look back and wonder what if, Parker said nearly three months after his first game as Leesville Roads starting quarterback.
Theres a lot of speculation that the reason I did it is because I wanted to get exposure or to get a scholarship, he said. Really when it comes down to it, I just really wanted to enjoy football. At Sanderson, although I had great relationships, the wins werent there, and in football its really black and white when it comes to success. Its your win and loss column.
Heading into the third round of the state playoffs as Leesville Roads senior quarterback, the loss column now has a zero. Parker has helped lead the Pride to an undefeated regular season and Cap Eight conference championship.
Parker said he had no idea the season would go quite as well as it has.
Today, the Prides record makes his decision seem like a no-brainer, but along with questions about how successful Leesvilles program would be heading into the year, Parker still had to earn a spot in the Prides lineup.
It wasnt like they rolled out the red carpet for me and the spotlights shining under the centers butt saying here you go, put your hands here. I had to work to get to that position, Parker said. It was almost as much as proving to myself that I was as good as I thought I was ... To have it unfold the way it did, it would have seemed like a missed chance if I wouldnt have at least taken a shot.
Aside from Leesville Roads reputation as one of the areas top teams in recent years, Parker had a couple of personal incentives, as well.
He has known teammates Braxton Berrios and Tucker Bell since middle school, which made the transition a lot easier, he said.
He came right in and fit in with the kids, said Leesville coach Chad Smothers. I think he earned their respect pretty quick. He knew some of the guys from growing up. Were only about 5 miles apart from Sanderson, so theyre all from about the same neighborhoods.
Still, there was uncertainty. Parker was a new face, and many of the other players already in the program were new starters. The teams success this year is a testament to the Pride football program, Parker said.
Putting Parker at the quarterback spot wasnt a huge change for the Pride, Bell said.
Hes actually got pretty much the same style as (quarterback Austin Berrios) from last year, Bell said. He likes to run the ball, which we did a lot last year. He can also throw good, which we had last year. Its not a huge change. Hes just a lot more physical, a lot bigger, but he fits good in the style of offense we run.
Parker is Leesvilles second-leading rusher with 67.1 yards per game and 11 touchdowns. The Pride averages more than 40 points per game, passing for 85.4 yards.
Smothers said putting Parker at quarterback also freed up Berrios and other players to move throughout the offense, making the Pride more difficult to defend.
Hes grown and understood and matured as a quarterback, Smothers said. He understands the system that were in and whats important for us offensively to do. Im very proud of him taking ownership in what were doing.
Parker knows that the road he took to get to this point has served him well.
I developed some of the greatest relationships that Im ever going to have with my friends, my teammates at Sanderson, and the coaches as well, he said. I wouldnt be the person I am if it wasnt for the experiences that I went through at Sanderson good and bad.
Parker makes it clear, though, that he has no regrets about making the move.
Zero in the loss column makes that kind of easy, he said. No losses, no regrets.
Some Division III schools have expressed interest in the 6-foot-2, 200 pound quarterback. Parker said he would be looking for a balance between strong academics and high caliber football but would wait until the seasons over to put together a new recruiting film.
For now, Parker knows the Pride has a solid shot at making the first state championship appearance in the programs history, and his goal is to continue having fun and prove that he can be a successful quarterback.
When asked whether he thinks he has accomplished that last goal, Parker said, Im doing it. Not done yet.
Leesville plays at undefeated No. 1 seed Garner on Friday.