When you have good players, it makes your job easy. When you then give experience to good players — well, it makes your job easy. —Preston Parrish
SPANISH FORK — Spanish Fork second-year coach Preston Parrish's plan has worked nicely, but there's still a lot of work left to do.
Parrish was presented a relatively experienced team entering his first season, with the Dons taking their lumps as a result. Last year's challenges have benefited the team a lot this season, however, due to a lot of players returning and a general attitude and work ethic. It has contributed to a 6-2 overall record and 4-0 mark in Region 10 play.
"When you have good players, it makes your job easy," Parrish said. "When you then give experience to good players — well, it makes your job easy. So we're optimistic, and things have gone according to plan, except for those two losses."
Both losses came in the preseason against two solid 5A programs, one classification up from Spanish Fork's 4A status. The first was a narrow 32-29 defeat to Springville, a program that advanced to the 4A state championship a season ago. After that came a game against Skyridge, where the Dons took it on the chin, losing 52-7.
"We weren't ready for that one. We weren't ready for their speed, and it showed," Parrish said of the big loss to the Falcons on Sept. 15. "But it was a good wakeup call for us, and it exploited some things we needed to work on. I think we turned it into a positive and feel we've improved since."
The Dons won their next three games, against region foes Salem Hills, Payson and Mountain View, improving to 4-0 in region play and a certain spot in the postseason.
"That's why you schedule tough preseason games," Parrish said. "Although I didn't see us losing to Skyridge quite that way, but, overall, I think our team has benefited."
As mentioned, the Dons are playing with a lot of players in their second year starting, and it's shown — leaders such as defensive lineman Tai Palepoi and quarterback Carson Chappell, among many others.
"When you have 18 returning starters from a year ago, you sort of do a leadership by committee thing," Parrish said. "But the seniors — I think a lot of those guys have realized this is the last time to do this and they need to give it their all, and I think they have."
The Dons will have a bye this coming week before ending the regular season with a showdown against Orem, which will likely be for the Region 10 crown. The Tigers have also battled through a tough non-region schedule and sit with a 3-0 region record as they prepare to take on Payson this coming weekend.
While some coaches shrug off region championships, Parrish isn't that coach.
"I like history and have looked into the program's history and stuff like that, so I was able to find out they've never had a state championship down here, and only like five region championships," Parrish said. "They had really good runs, and were just there in 2011 and 2012, but they've never gotten over that hump."
Parrish also knows how tight-knit the Spanish Fork community is, and he knows how much it would mean should the Dons win a region championship, or even a state championship.
"The school has been around for more than one hundred years, and there's a lot of diehards down here," Parrish said. "I love that and know how much it would mean for everyone. But, wow, we have a lot of work to do, and it really starts when we take on Orem to end out the regular season."