When Callaway High quarterback Tez Parks takes the snap, he has to decide almost instantaneously what he’s going to do with the football.
Parks is the engine that makes the triple-option offense go.
As the name of the offense implies, Parks has three options on a running play.
He can hand the ball off to a fullback, he can pitch the ball off to one of his running backs, or he can keep the ball himself.
“With us, running a triple-option offense, he decides who gets the ball,” Callaway offensive coordinator Matt Napier said.
And that has worked out just fine this season.
The Cavaliers, who are preparing for their second-round state-playoff matchup against Washington County, have been putting up huge numbers on offense this season.
After beating Tattnall County 49-7 in last week’s first-round matchup, the Cavaliers are averaging 35 points per game.
The Cavaliers do it with an explosive, versatile running game that begins with Parks, a junior who is in his first season as a full-time starter.
Parks has been playing a lot since his freshman season, but for the first time he is the first and final option at quarterback.
He has responded in brilliant fashion this season, expertly running a complex offense.
“I feel more comfortable this year than I did last year, because I was a backup to my brother (Ricky Parks),” Tez Parks said. “This year, I’m starting and I’ve got the feel of it more during spring training and practice.”
While Parks is the guy who spends most of the time with the ball in his hands, he’s hardly the only weapon.
The greatest strength of Callaway’s offense is its versatility.
The Cavaliers have an abundance of players who can score anytime they touch the ball.
All of the Cavaliers’ weapons were on display last week against Tatnall County.
Parks had two touchdown runs, including one that covered 56 yards, and he also threw a 31-yard scoring pass to Terry Godwin.
Devon Rosser, the fullback with sprinter’s speed, had touchdown runs of 24 and 71 yards, with the 71-yard run coming on the first play from scrimmage in the second half.
Wilson Lindsey and Eddie Culpepper are the tailbacks who are usually on the receiving end of a pitch from Parks, and they have close to 20 touchdowns between them.
In the Tatnall County game, Lindsey had a 21-yard scoring run, and while Culpepper didn’t score, his 27-yard run shortly before the half helped set up Parks’ scoring pass to Godwin.
Cortez Leonard, a senior free safety who also moonlights as a running back on occasion, added a 50-yard touchdown run in last week’s game, and Kel Kyles has also gotten his share of carries this season.
“We have so many skill players on offense, and our line is improving each and every week,” Parks said. “It’s just a team effort.”
Napier said it’s tough for a defense to prepare for an offense when you can’t focus on one or two players.
“We don’t have one guy. We don’t have a 2,000-yard rusher,” Napier said. “We have five guys with 600, 800 yards. You don’t know who’s going to get it.”
And while the Cavaliers are predominantly a running team, they can get it done through the air as well, especially when Godwin is the target.
The sophomore, who has already received a scholarship offer from the University of Georgia, is an extraordinary athlete who has scored touchdowns catching the ball, running the ball, returning kicks, and on interception returns this season.
As a pass-catcher, Godwin came through with one of the biggest plays of the game last week.
The Cavaliers were holding a 14-point lead when Godwin got behind his defender and made a 31-yard touchdown catch to make it a 28-7 game at the half.
“Tez made a great throw, and Terry went up and got that thing,” Napier said.
Parks said having someone like Godwin to throw to is comforting.
“If I get it close enough to him, he’ll get it,” Parks said.
Napier also said the improvement of the offensive line has been critical to the offense’s success this season.
“A lot of those plays (last week), Devon Rosser will hit the trap, and he won’t get touched until he’s in the secondary,” Napier said. “To me, up front, they have been one of the best lines we have ever had.”
It all starts with Parks, though.
He and the center are the two players guaranteed to touch the ball on every play, and Parks has responded with a terrific season, both running the ball and throwing it.
Napier said Parks has become a much better passer as he’s realized he can take some velocity off his throws and still get the ball where it needs to go.
“He’s got a really strong arm,” Napier said. “He’s figured out to have a little more touch. He can throw it about 70 yards, but he’s figured out, I don’t have to throw it 95 m.p.h.”
Parks spent a lot of time working on his throwing this summer, and Callaway went to a number of seven-on-seven passing camp.
“The summer helped a lot,” Parks said. “All the skill players went to seven-on-seven camps, to individual camps.”
The Cavaliers aren’t going to throw much, though, unless they fall behind and they have to.
Parks’ primary responsibility is running the option offense, and Napier said he has “done a good job” with that.
And if things don’t go according to plan, Parks can still make something positive happen.
“If you mess up, make wrong read, Tez is fast enough to make up for that,” Napier said.
Parks, and all of the offensive players will have to be at their best this week against a stout Washington County defense.
“We’re playing probably one of the best defenses in the state Friday night,” Napier said. “We’ll have to be clicking on all cylinders to play with those guys.”