Panthers Roll Into TAPPS Title Game

FRISCO — Parish Episcopal has already made program history. Now the Panthers are one more win from their ultimate goal.

Parish advanced to the TAPPS Division I state championship game for the first time with a 41-21 victory over Houston St. Thomas on Saturday at the Ford Center at The Star.

The Panthers will face a rematch with district rival Plano John Paul II on Dec. 6 in Waco, trying to earn their first state title since 2014 and first ever in the state’s largest private-school classification.

“We’re going to enjoy this, but then we need to get back to work,” said Parish head coach Daniel Novakov. “I hope we can keep it going. We’ve got to try and get one more win.”

In the state semifinal victory, Parish quarterback Preston Stone tossed two touchdown passes and ran for two more scores as the Panthers (11-1) extended their winning streak to nine games overall.

Christian Benson ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns, and also caught a scoring pass. Parish extended the lead with a 41-yard touchdown pass from Stone to Gabriel Walls on a fourth-and-7 play.

After the Eagles (9-4) trimmed the deficit in half, Stone engineered a 75-yard drive in the final two minutes of the first half, eventually scrambling into the end zone from 10 yards out.

Parish’s Noah Love intercepted a pass to start the second half, leading to a Benson touchdown run that ballooned the margin to 27-7.

“We weren’t in a very good rhythm, so to get that two-minute drive at the end was really good for us,” Novakov said. “Then we answered again in the third quarter, which was kind of the back-breaker.”

When the Eagles narrowed the gap to 34-14 early in the fourth quarter, Parish needed just 50 seconds to answer, scoring two plays later on a 42-yard scamper by Benson.

Stone completed 18 of 27 passes for 235 yards, surging past the 3,000-yard plateau for the season. He also rushed for 80 yards on 12 attempts. Kaleb Culp caught three passes for a game-high 77 yards for the Panthers, in addition to blocking a field goal in the first quarter to preserve an early 7-0 advantage.

John Fontenot ran for 114 yards and two fourth-quarter scores for St. Thomas. Maddox Kopp was 22-for-36 passing for 186 yards and a touchdown.

Parish will face a familiar foe in the championship game, as John Paul II knocked off San Antonio Antonian in the other semifinal. The Panthers cruised past the Cardinals 47-7 during their regular-season meeting on Nov. 1, but JPII (10-3) has won four straight since then.

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