Five overtimes left the Parsons Vikings with a stunning comeback win and nothing else left to give.
Friday night marked the opening of the 2019 football season and Parsons, which trailed by 16 in the fourth quarter, came back and won 54-48 in five overtimes over the Iola Mustangs to start the season with a win for the second straight year.
It’s only poetry at this point that one of the most thrilling Parsons games ever happened on Don Barcus Night.
“The tone was set by Don Barcus tonight,” Parsons head coach Kurt Friess said. “We couldn’t just wear the sticker. We had to find a sword. I don’t know how the rest of our season will go. But tonight, people had given up on us. They thought we were dead, but we found our swords. This was a Don Barcus football night.”
Even more fittingly, the player who perhaps sacrificed the most for Parsons on the gridiron last fall once again left body parts on the field to earn a win.
Senior wideout Dariq Williams, who missed multiple games last year with a knee injury then fractured his shoulder in the season-ending loss to Galena, accounted for five touchdown catches. That total included two in the fourth quarter that helped the Vikings overcome a 22-6 deficit with under six minutes to play, and three more in the five overtimes.
FINAL SCORE - FIVE OVERTIMES (!)Parsons 54, Iola 48 The Vikings seal it with this TD pass from Ethan Houk to Dariq Williams.Wow... pic.twitter.com/l8pPhAaZen— Sean Frye (@SeanEFrye) September 7, 2019
“He got us a victory,” Friess said. “That’s what he did. He’s Dariq Williams. He’s one of the best athletes in the state and in Parsons history. He got hurt for us twice last year and has earned the right to do whatever he wants to do. He was cramping and competing. I’m lucky to be able to coach him.”
Williams, who missed significant chunks of the second half and overtimes cramping on the sidelines, was gassed when he finally scored the game-winning touchdown on a dive to the left pylon.
“I don’t know what I have left,” Williams said. “With all the cramps I’ve got, I’m not sure I have any muscle left.”
The other hero?
Ethan Houk, the junior quarterback making his first career start. The mullet-donning signal-caller threw three interceptions in the first half in a debut that had the ingredients of being forgettable.
But in the second half and overtimes, Houk accounted for every touchdown. All five of his touchdown passes went to Williams, while he also ran for two scores in overtime.
“We didn’t help him early,” Friess said. “He was making good throws that we didn’t catch. He showed moxie tonight. He’s a coach’s son and a competitor. Ethan helped so much tonight.”
Houk, who said after the game that his heart felt like it was beating out of his chest, couldn’t fathom the final result.
“I’m in disbelief,” Houk said. “Down 16, we were just down. But in the third quarter, we started to click and turned our motors up. We knew if we didn’t go hard, we wouldn’t win.”
Houk’s biggest flash of heroics came in the third overtime on a 5-yard touchdown run.
Taking the snap from the shotgun on the left hashmark, Houk was flushed out of the pocket and rolled toward the right sideline. When he couldn’t find an open receiver, he doubled back and traversed the field, reaching the left sideline before he cut upfield. From there, he bulldozed two Iola defenders en route to the end zone.
“I thought I was going to get obliterated,” Houk said. “I don’t have the speed DaQuan Johnson or Dariq Williams had. I couldn’t believe I found the end zone.”
Friess was also elated with the play of his defense. As the Vikings’ offense took nearly the entire night to finally find its rhythm, Parsons’ defense kept Iola at bay just enough to keep the game within reach.
“There were a lot of young kids on defense that played hard,” Friess said. “They worked hard to get us that win.”
After Williams’ first fourth quarter touchdown reception that pulled Parsons within eight points, it was an interception by Tanner Barcus that gave the Vikings prime field position to tie the game.
“The defense got us hyped this game,” Williams said. “That’s what turned it.”
Parsons, while victorious, ultimately paid a price. Nearly every player was psychologically and physically exhausted after the marathon. One player also left Marvel Park in an ambulance with an apparent neck injury after the game-ending celebration for Parsons.
But Friess has no doubt in his new-look unit.
“Kids are resilient and tough,” Friess said. “We were mentally tough tonight. We’ll give them the weekend off and let them bounce back.”
The Vikings came in to Friday night with plenty of question marks. The Mustangs, for 3 1/2 quarters, had the answers.
“Iola was better coached tonight,” Friess said. “Iola should have won the football game. But our kids wouldn’t quit.”
As taxing and memorable as Friday night’s season opener was, the Vikings now must move on and prepare for Anderson County in Week 2 in another home contest.
“The team has different leaders now,” Williams said. “We’re working with the people we have right now and I love it. I feel amazing.”
Parsons 54, Iola 48 (5OT)
Parsons: 0 6 0 16 32 — 54
Iola: 0 13 2 7 26 — 48
IO: Casen Barker 7-yd run, 10:18, 7-0
IO: Isaac Badders 15-yd run, 4:47, 13-0
PS: Yusef Kendrick 9-yd run, 2:31, 13-6
IO: Safety, 0:36, 15-6
IO: Zane Whitney 1-yd run, 7:38, 22-6
PS: Ethan Houk 28-yd pass to Dariq Williams, 5:37, 22-14
PS: Houk 45-yd pass to Williams, 2:42, 22-22
IO: Trent Jones 6-yd run, 28-22
PS: Ethan Houk 4-yd run, 28-28
PS: Houk 7-yd pass to Williams, 36-28
IO: Barker 15-yd pass, 36-36
IO: 10-yd run, 42-36
PS: Houk 5-yd run, 42-42
PS: Houk 10-yd pass to Williams, 48-42
IO: Barker 1-yd run, 48-48
PS: Houk 10-yd pass to Williams, 54-48