FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High football has a new guy leading the sideline with former Bartram Trail High assistant head coach and running backs coach Chad Parker returning to Clay County to …
FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High football has a new guy leading the sideline with former Bartram Trail High assistant head coach and running backs coach Chad Parker returning to Clay County to lead the Golden Eagles’ football program.
“I learned a lot over the years between my coaching jobs at Orange Park with Danny Green and at Bartram Trail with Darrell Sutherland, two pretty successful guys,” said Parker, 42, who takes over for long-time coach Damenyum Springs, an assistant from day one and a head coach for nearly the last decade. “The attention to details and the process was their big goal. Both of the those guys had a set way to do things to be successful and were relentless in getting the kids to get there.”
Parker has already seen the quality of athletes at Fleming Island and says it is comparable to any team in the state.
“There is a much higher quality of athlete right here in these hallways,” said Parker, who coached Orange Park High wrestling with district titles and an individual state title to Corey Van Dorn. “One thing that we will put to work here is the football IQ of the kids. Coach Sutherland used to have a test of the football plan at Bartram Trail every day and if athletes could not answer the questions, they did not play. Many of the teams we beat at Bartram had better athletes, but we were smarter.”
Parker dropped some of the star player names of his Bartram Trail days; guys like Joey Gatewood and Devin Ellison, that terrorized the likes of Fleming Island and Oakleaf in past seasons, and noted that the rivalry between the schools with all three teams was part of the seasonal preparations.
“We knew how good Fleming Island and Oakleaf kids were,” said Parker, noting Bartram Trail has been a frequent deep playoff team since 2016 with either Fleming Island or Oakleaf en route to their final finishes before moving to Class 8A recently. “Heck, Oakleaf had Shaquille Quarterman and Fleming Island had Ryan Smenda back then. They were monsters.”
One name that will be familiar with Fleming Island football fans, as well as Oakleaf, is the installation of former coach Derek Chipoletti as Parker’s defensive coach.
“We worked it out and he’s in. We also got offensive coach Evan Scharf back on the field,” said Parker.
Parker wants to see, on the field, flawless execution and premiere fourth quarter conditioning.
“My wrestling coaching background made me realize how important conditioning is to success in the fourth quarter or the end of a game; wrestling had periods,” said Parker.
Parker played football at Orange Park for two games where he played alongside Fleming Island athletic director Travis Cunningham. Parker had some college time, but limited football and then decided while at University of South Florida that he wanted to coach.
“I played in South Carolina where we went to the playoffs often, then moved here with my dad, a U.S. Marine,” said Parker. “I had some college tryouts, but nothing big.”
After a coaching internship at Wesley Chapel near Tampa, Parker’s first coaching stint was under Green at Orange Park for two years where he ramped up the wrestling program.
“We made that wrestling program relevant and had a great team back then with Van Dorn, the Tejadas brothers, Devon Brooks and Marcus Reid on that team,” said Parker. “I knew though I wanted to be a head football coach.”
At Orange Park for eight years, then Parker went to Bartram Trail where he coached football and wrestling with a second state champion at Bartram Trail; Ethan Vugman, this season.
“I got Fleming Island’s wrestling coach P.J. Cobbert as my junior varsity coach,” said Parker. “He’s a great motivator and knows what conditioning and weightlifting can do for a program.”