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Feliciana Sports for Aug. 9, 2018 Remembering West Feliciana Football foundations: Bill Parkerson
WARREN BRADY
Thursday, August 09 2018

What does a football coach do after 25 years and it’s time to move on?

Bill Parkerson literally moved down the road — Bains Road — past the middle school and high school, and just past the stadium where he coached the West Feliciana Saints football team for 25 years. Before he took his current position as the assistant principal at Bains Elementary School, he had a long and storied history in West Feliciana that helped lay the foundation for the 2017 Class 3A football Champions.

Parkerson's journey began at Episcopal High School, where he played football for Clinton native Marvin Holland. Holland started the football program at Episcopal when Parkerson was in seventh grade. They played two games his seventh-grade year, four games in eighth grade and a junior varsity schedule in ninth grade. The first year of varsity football was his sophomore year. “Never had a losing season,” Parkerson said.

From Episcopal, Parkerson moved to the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, to play linebacker for Shirley Majors, legendary Tennessee Volunteers coach Johnny Major’s father.

After a year in Tennessee, he came back to Louisiana with plans to play football at Southeastern Louisiana University. Coach Holland had taken a graduate-assistant position, and Parkerson jumped at the chance to reunite with his former coach. Southeastern head football coach Billy Brewer had other plans. "Coach Brewer told me, 'Bill, let me tell ya something. We got a lot of 5-foot-10-inch, 180-pound linebackers that never see the field.’ ” Parkerson astutely ended his football career and enrolled at LSU.

When Parkerson graduated in 1978, Holland called Joe Tandy, principal at St. Francisville High School, and Donald Currier, the head coach, hired Parkerson. Parkerson was an assistant football coach for Currier for two years.

“I enjoyed coaching with Donald Currier and learned a lot,” Parkerson said.

Year three in St. Francisville, 1980, was a turning point. Currier went to Franklinton and Parkerson married his wife, Willia Lemoine. His mentor Holland accepted the head coaching position at Zachary and hired Parkerson as an assistant. When Currier took the job at Franklinton, he recommended Parkerson for the head coaching job with the Saints, with two years of assistant coaching experience.

Parkerson’s tenure as an assistant coach at Zachary lasted no more than a month. “Came back here and became the head football coach. I know coach Holland didn’t think I was ready, but he encouraged me anyway,” Parkerson said.

His first year at West Feliciana started out inauspiciously, as the Saints were 0-6, but the team played hard and “just ran out of steam in the fourth quarter,” Parkerson said. Week seven would see the Saints gain their first victory of the season at Rosenwald. Parkerson said that in victory, “I was frustrated because their effort did not match our first six games, and I tried to impress on them that we expect their best effort no matter who we were playing. We missed the ferry coming back, and I got 'em out of the buses and fussed some more.”

When asked about his overall record, Parkerson humbly replied, “I dunno. It was 150 and something, and we won more than we lost. Mike Thornhill was with me from the beginning and deserves much of the credit for our success. Our first spring, we practiced at night in February after baseball practice. I remember two nights it was 19 degrees and some of the players had more socks on their hands than their feet. Lionel Sanders was also with us, then Darryl Powell, Robb Odom, James Cupit and many other coaches. Of course, the players who gave so much.”

He never beat his mentor Holland. “Should have beat them the first year we played. We lost 16-8 in overtime on a phantom interference call.” The experience of losing to his mentor was further fueled by Holland providing ice cream sandwiches to the Saints players after Bronco victories.

Parkerson quipped, “Mike Thornhill told coach Holland in '87 that if you are gonna beat us, run the score up so we take you off the schedule and don’t have to eat those ice cream sandwiches.”

Parkerson’s most successful team was the 1989 Saints that went 11-2. The Saints lost to Rosenwald in a quarterfinal playoff game he will never forget. “We beat them in district and were winning 14-0 at the half. Took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove down to the 1-yard line and fumbled the snap. The only fumbled snap we had all year. They drove 99 yards and got their confidence back, and we lost in overtime.” 

Other memorable seasons were the first winning season (1982), the first district championship that included beating Clinton for the first time in 15 years, and the 2000 team’s upset of No. 5-ranked Karr in the first round of the playoffs. The Saints scored twice in the last two minutes to beat Karr.

Roderick Mullen, a player on the 1989 team, was probably Parkerson’s most successful football player on the field.

“Roderick went to Grambling. First spring training he broke his leg and the bone was in the dirt. Healed up and on pro day ran the 40 in 4.29, twice,” Parkerson said.

Mullins was the MVP of the Bayou Classic, drafted by the Giants and won the Super Bowl in New Orleans with the Green Bay Packers. Parkerson noted that “we had three Bayou Classic MVPs — Derrick Coates, Gerard Raby and Roderick Mullen.”

In 1995, a young assistant, Robb Odom, joined the staff with Parkerson’s longtime assistant and friend Mike Thornhill. Odom said of Parkerson, “He is not only a great football coach but a great person. He is still the most successful football coach in West Feliciana history. If it was not for coach Parkerson, West Feliciana football would not be where it is today.”

When it was time to give up his whistle before the 2005 season, Parkerson recommended Odom for the head coaching job. Odom has finished his mentor’s job with multiple victories over Zachary, Odom’s alma mater.

Parkerson lists his coaching influences as Marvin Holland and John Allen Phares. “Coach Holland was like my dad. He took care of me. Kept me out of trouble. Forgave me for a lot of things. Coach Phares was good as gold. I could tell stories.” Stories for East Feliciana native John Allen Phares will no doubt be an entertaining and interesting future column.

“Hearing from and seeing former players and coaches makes me realize that the outcomes of games and seasons are secondary to the memories and lasting bonds formed. Last year’s state championship is a perfect example, because I got to see and visit with players, some that I hadn't seen in years. Unforgettable experience. So proud of Robb Odom and the 2017 Saints. Robb has done such a great job,” Parkerson said.

Parkerson’s career at West Feliciana centered around football and sports in general. “In addition to coaching, Willia was the cheerleader sponsor all those years, and my children were always involved in one way or another.”

Parkerson’s son, William, is a sales rep for Red Stick Sports, and his daughter, Sarah, is a science teacher at the West Feliciana middle school, where she serves as the middle school cheerleader sponsor. Though retired, his wife continues to assist as a cheerleader sponsor at the high school.