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Jaquez Parks: High school football player of the year

Jaquez Parks is more likely to wind up in the Ivy League than in the ACC or the SEC. He not a five-star recruit. He’s just a record-setting quarterback on Griffin’s history-making state-championship team.

“It doesn’t bother me, but I’ve wondered about it,’’ Parks said of his status as a college recruit. “It motivates me to show what I can do and that even though they’re not looking at me like that (five-star) player, that I could be that player.’’

Parks is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s all-classification state player of the year, an honor that typically goes to a player headed for big-time college football. Recent winners include Alvin Kamara, now at Alabama, and Robert Nkemdiche, at Ole Miss.

None meant any more to his team than did Parks, who guided Griffin to a 15-0 finish and its first state championship since 1978. Parks passed for 3,640 yards and rushed for 1,329. He had a hand in 45 touchdowns.

In the state championship game, a 56-35 victory over Carrollton, Parks set a state-finals record with 554 yards from scrimmage — 338 passing and 216 rushing.

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“Great choice,’’ Carrollton coach Rayvan Teague said of Parks’ selection. “Smart decision-maker, 1,000-yard rusher, 3,000-yard passer. What more can you ask of a quarterback?”

Griffin’s hardest victory came in the quarterfinals against No. 1-ranked Sandy Creek, the defending Class AAAA champion. Parks struggled for much of it, but completed 8 of 9 passes for 125 yards in the fourth quarter, when Griffin erased a 26-17 lead in the final seven minutes and won 32-26.

“We held him in check for 41 minutes, but he wouldn’t let his team quit,’’ Sandy Creek coach Chip Walker said. “He was definitely what made Griffin what they were. Without him, I don’t think they were anywhere close to being as good a team.’’

That Parks’ college prospects are no higher remains a mystery. Harvard and Yale have shown interest, although it’s more likely he’ll wind up at Air Force or Kennesaw State.

It isn’t size. He’s 6 feet, 200 pounds, according to his coach, Steve DeVoursney. It isn’t academics. Parks said he has a 3.8 GPA.

And he’s fast. Parks has run on Griffin’s 4x100 relay team. He also runs hurdles and competes in the long jump, high jump and triple jump. He’s a point guard in basketball. His father, O.J. Parks, was a member of Griffin’s 1988 state championship basketball team.

DeVoursney put Parks in charge of his spread offense in the 10th grade. Griffin is 33-5 in the three seasons since. DeVoursney calls Parks’ presence the X-factor in an offense that averaged 42.7 points per game.

“We spread the field so much, and he’s so good at finding the open receiver whether they’re running deep, standing on the sideline or in his face,’’ DeVoursney said. “To protect against that, you’ve got to drop everybody in zone (coverage), and if you do that, he’s like a running back with the ball. If he sees a crease, he’s going to take off on you.’’

Griffin twice burned Carrollton with touchdown passes against blitzes. With 2:52 left, Parks got loose on a 73-yard run that put the game on ice and Parks in the record books as the first player in the state finals with more than 500 yards from scrimmage.

Parks believed it came from hard work and doing what he does best.

“Which is taking what the defense gives me,’’ he said. “It was really an unbelievable game. I knew I could do it, but it’s still hard to imagine that I did.’’

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