Football is a sport that exudes the notion that bigger is better. High school teams strive to have a large roster and bigger players.
Is it possible for less to equal more? Parkview Baptist football coach Jay Mayet thinks so.
The first-year head coach cites his nine-member senior class as a prime example.
“This has been a unique senior group,” Mayet said. “This has been a senior class that has embraced the underclassmen more than others. The numbers have something to do with that.
“They realize the importance of the underclassmen. They want to have the best senior year, but they know it isn’t just about them.”
The seniors aren’t always at center stage, but are expected to play a key role when seventh-seeded Parkview (9-3) hosts No. 3 St. Charles Catholic (9-2) for a Division II select semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday.
“You have to buy into this program in order to stay with it,” nose guard Michael Tarwater said. “You can’t be committed only part of the time. When we were freshmen, I think there were 25 of us.
“Some guys wanted to concentrate on other sports, and others decided it wasn’t for them. You figure you’ll lose some along the way. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into this. It’s not easy.”
Tarwater and running back Houston Robert are part of a senior group that also includes linebacker Gabriel Pedigo, fullback Aaron Leonard, receiver-cornerback Josh Stansell, tight end-linebacker Trey Voories, lineman Austin Spiece, receiver-defensive back KJ Drummer and receiver/defensive back Ryan Richard.
Robert and Tarwater have other notable ties. Both are three-year starters who were part of the Eagles 2012 Class 3A title team. Each player also has a long-running connection to the school.
Tarwater grew up watching his brother Marshall play for the Eagles. Robert, a Rice commitment, remembers growing up at the school.
“I came to Parkview when I was in second grade,” Robert said. “I always watched the high school team play. I wanted to be them.
“I was always blessed to be athletic and into sports. I played basketball and baseball, but when I got to high school, I decided to focus on football. I liked it more.”
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Robert ran for 171 yards on 10 carries and scored two touchdowns in last week’s 49-20 win over St. Michael the Archangel. He ranks third on the team with 690 rushing yards and six TDs.
Tarwater has 59 total tackles, leads the team in tackles for loss with 15 and also has seven sacks despite being a little undersized to play nose guard at 6-2, 230.
“Both those guys are great leaders by example,” Mayet said. “Neither one is going to say something just to hear themselves talk. When something needs to be said, they’ll both step up and say it at the appropriate time.”
Tarwater and Robert see themselves as being part of a senior group that has made its mark.
“When you lose three games, it would be easy to say, ’Hey maybe this isn’t going to be our year.’ When we won state my sophomore year we didn’t lose a game,” Robert said. “This group never believed that. We’ve continued to grow and get better.
“It’s a different deal when you lose and you don’t learn from it. But I think we have learned from it. We saw we were our own worst enemy in some of those losses and knew what we needed to fix.”
St. Charles is a foe the Robert and Tarwater know well. The Comets beat the Eagles in the 2011 Class 3A semifinals and went on to win the state title. Both were freshmen reserves.
“I was on scout team and worked to try to get the guys who were going to play ready,” Tarwater said. “It hurt me to see those seniors lose. I’ve been waiting for another chance for three years.
“With that said, St. Charles is a very good team. They’re so well coached. They get the most out of what they have. We can’t get too excited. We need to play our game.”