Ron Rushing believes he can build the Parklane football program into something special. That’s why he took the job after five seasons at Brookhaven and six at Cathedral. And it was easy to see some of the early signs Friday night. There’s the flashy new pavilion between the locker room and the field. The press box and concession stands will soon be redone. Even the team on the field is showing glimpses in Rushing’s first season.
But Friday’s game against Jackson Prep serves as a reminder of the obstacle still in Parklane’s way -- a daunting division filled with perennial powers. And while the Pioneers hung with the visiting Patriots for most of the first half, a slew of midgame turnovers allowed Jackson Prep to put the game out of reach en route to a 41-12 victory.
“We didn’t capitalize on a lot of situations,” Rushing said. “We’ve just got to continue to get better, quit making the same mistakes and continue to improve.”
Parklane’s defense kept Jackson Prep in check early on, and after the Patriots’ Louie Gatlin opened the scoring with a 38-yard field goal, Pioneers quarterback Will Dreher led a drive and Kaden Iupe’s sliding catch in the corner of the end zone gave Parklane a 6-3 lead with 10:09 left in the second quarter.
But the giveaways were too much to overcome. Dreher threw three interceptions in the first half, and a bad exchange led to a fumble by running back Collin Doyle for the Pioneers’ fourth turnover of the period. Jackson Prep and quarterback Paxton Thompson capitalized. He led three touchdown drives in the second quarter, two culminating in touchdown runs by Owen Ishee and one score coming from a Thompson 10-yard pass to Garner Watkins.
Jackson Prep led 24-6 at the half.
Parklane came out of the locker room with a spark, forcing a Thompson fumble on the opening drive of the second half. On the ensuing play, Henry Brewer, inserted at quarterback after halftime, found Brent Fleming for another highlight-reel catch along the end-zone sideline. That made it 24-12, and the Parklane defense forced two more punts to start the second half, but the offense couldn’t take advantage.
The Patriots put the gas pedal down late. Thompson and Will Upton connected for a 20-yard touchdown pass to push the lead to 31-12 through three quarters, and Thompson’s 31-yard scoring strike to Watkins made it 38-12 with 10:19 left in the fourth. Gatlin’s 44-yard field goal with 6:27 left brought the score to its final 41-12 number.
“They put so much pressure on you defensively,” Rushing said. “They single you up and it’s just a matter of making plays. (They’re) always on the attack.”
Rushing, ultimately, was proud of his team’s effort. He spoke highly of how much time the Pioneers’ offensive line gave its quarterbacks, and thought both Dreher and Brewer had some good moments.
Parklane had its fair share of explosive plays and highlight moments Friday night. The challenge is consistency. And as the Pioneers shift focus to next weekend’s homecoming game against Adams County Christian, it’s clear there’s still a long way to go.
“I’m always proud of our guys’ efforts,” Rushing said. “They played hard the entire time; they don’t quit playing hard. I say it every week -- we’re still worried about us, lining up correctly, getting our eyes, being disciplined. … As long as they continue to do that, keep a good attitude and keep improving, we’re on track.”