TROJAN HORSE

Overton native to face alma mater as head man in Cumby

Gary Parrish bleeds green and white, but on one Friday night each football season he will do everything he can to defeat his alma mater.

Parrish, an Overton native, was a four-year starter and all-state lineman for the Mustangs from 1991-1994, anchoring an offensive line that paved the way for consecutive state playoff appearances and multiple 1,000-yard rushers during that span.

But that was then, now he’s the head football coach and athletic director for the Trojans of Cumby High School, a Class 1A program near Sulphur Springs and one of Overton’s newest district rivals.

“I’ve been asked about it by colleagues in the coaching field who know of my background, as well as friends and former teammates,” he said. “A lot of them ask if it’s going to be weird or awkward […] but for me, it’s exciting. I’m looking forward to it!”

Parrish, 35, who just completed his eighth year at Cumby, officially took over June 30 as the top Trojan following the end of previous coach Edward Perez’s contract. Perez, the Cumby head football coach/AD for the last four years, took a job as an assistant coach at Royse City.

Last year Parrish served as offensive coordinator in football and head track coach and head powerlifting coach for a team that won the Class 1A state title.

With his new role as head football coach and AD, he’ll have to give up the head coach position in track but will remain as the powerlifting coach.

Parrish said there’s no doubt where his loyalties reside and he hopes there’s no hard feelings on either side of the upcoming year’s contests.

“We’re eager to compete with Overton in district,” he said. “We’ve had a few run-ins in recent years for this or that sport, but it’s going to be fun to play each other regularly. I know we’re looking forward to it and I know folks in Overton are as well.”

Parrish said he’d love to establish a hard-fought rivalry between the two schools, built upon a foundation of sportsmanship and mutual respect.

“Overton is a great football town and football school, always has been and always will be. Their successes in other sports are great but football is a part of Overton’s DNA and that’s what we’ve been working toward building here,” he said. “To compete with and be rivals with a school that has Overton’s tremendous tradition in football is an accomplishment in itself.”

Parrish said his first taste of athletic success came in Overton, and it’s something he wants to help bring to Cumby. The Mustangs, who have won at least one district championship in every decade going back to the early 1900s, have fallen on hard times on the gridiron in recent years, but Parrish doubts the “Big O” will be down much longer.

“It goes in circles, some years you’re up and some years you’re down,” he said. “I think they’re about to get it turned around and have some good years again.”

The process of building up a program is one Parrish understands well.

“Our program is much younger, and the traditions do not go as deep, but it’s something I’ve been hoping to build upon each year since coming here from Commerce,” he said.

Parrish coached at Commerce High School from 1999-2004 after graduating from nearby Texas A&M Commerce, during that span the school won state football titles in 1999 and 2001.

“I believe everything happens for a reason. This is a great opportunity,” he added.

As this year marks what Parrish said he hopes is a long and distinguished career at Cumby, he acknowledges there is also a charge to keep and a debt to pay.

“So much of who I am as a man, as a coach, and so much of who I hope to become, as a man and as a coach, is the result of the great men I learned from at Overton,” he said. “I couldn’t appreciate it then but not a day goes by now where I don’t think of one or all of them, and feel gratitude to have them as an example.”

Parrish cited OHS head coach and athletic director Mike Clyde, the winningest coach in school history, as well as assistant coaches David Stone and longtime junior high coach C.R. Evans as positive influences, with special emphasis on East Texas coaching legend Chester Roy.

“When you’re young, you tend to only see one dimension of your teachers and your coaches, they’re just the guy who’s trying to get you to do something, but since I’ve started coaching I have the context to see how great they truly were at their jobs,” he said. “With someone like Coach Roy, what can you say? Coach Roy proved that you can be successful, accomplish great things with your athletes, and never lose sight about what’s truly important in life and how far-reaching an impact you can have on a community for the good.”

Parrish said his heart remains true to Overton, and that he will continue to root for a Mustang victory every Friday night…  every Friday night except for one.

“I’m a Trojan through-and-through, dedicated to this community, this school, and my students,” he said. “But I’m also proud to be a Mustang.”

After a pause Parrish laughed and added, “I’m always going to be a Mustang, just not when we play y’all.”

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