OTTAWA– Ottawa-Glandorf’s Tristan Parker looks like a natural.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound running back glides through the line, watches his blockers, then hits the jets. He breaks one way, before jamming on the breaks, then darts into cut-back lane across the field.
In seconds, he’s gone.
Parker’s speed and power, along with a talented O-G offensive line, are big reasons the Titans stand 11-0, the first O-G team to finish the regular season 10-0.
This week Western Buckeye League champion O-G meets Columbus Bishop Hartley (12-0) in the Division IV football regional championship game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at a site to be named.
“He has such great vision and it’s off of our toss power,” O-G coach Ken Schriner said of Parker. “We get blockers out in front of him and he does a great job of cutting back and he’s got the option of cutting anywhere. He’s got great vision and he makes big plays for us.
“He gets down the field 15 yards and everyone is wondering why is he slowing up? But he sees the blockers coming and has the ability to cut off that. He’s an exciting running back for us.”
This year Parker has run for 1,874 yards (8.0 yards-per-carry) with 25 TDs. He’s also caught seven passes for 101 yards and one TD.
Parker was named the WBL offensive back of the year.
It would be easy to think Parker has always been a running back.
But he hasn’t.
In grade school, Parker was an offensive lineman looking to lead the way for the tailback.
“As a little kid I was a lineman,” Parker said. “I didn’t get to do much running. In the seventh and eighth grade I played left guard. It was fun, but I wouldn’t say it was as good as I have it now. It was a lot less of a glory position.”
And as much as Parker liked knocking people down, he down deep wanted to run the ball.
So on Day 1 of freshman football, he approached the coaches.
“The first day you get to go to the position you think you are going to be and I went to the running backs,” Parker said. “If you succeed there, you stick with it. If not, they move you. I wanted to give it (running back) a try and see how it works out.”
The first few times Parker broke loose in freshman ball and there was no more going back to the O-line.
“I guess I had kind of a knack for it,” Parker said with a laugh.
As a sophomore on the varsity, he played linebacker and was a backup running back.
Last year he again played linebacker and took over for an injured Brandon Kuhlman as the team’s No. 1 running back. He ended up running for 1,320 yards with seven TDs.
This year, he’s the top running back in the WBL and he’s quick to credit his line, a group he remains close with. The line includes all-WBL center Derek Rieman (6-5, 290), all-WBL tackle Wyatt Karhoff (6-5, 250), all-WBL guard Matt Samuelson (6-3, 225), along with guards Jacob Wells (5-11, 185) and Ross Hashbarger (5-9, 180) and tackle Tanner Hohenbrink (6-2, 285).
“They’ve worked really hard in the offseason and everything we do is through them,” Parker said. “They’re the key to our success.”
Other keys to the running game are quarterback Caleb Siefker (1,180 yard, 21 TDs) and 5-8, 210-pound tank-like fullback Brad Racer (362 yards, seven TDs)
“Caleb makes great reads,” Parker said. “He keeps it when he needs to and gives it when he needs to. … And Brad runs hard and he finishes runs.”
Defensively, Parker plays safety and has 30 tackles and one interception.
Hartley will bring its own challenges this week, but once again Parker will rely on his old friends up front.
Few respect and admire the offensive line like Parker, a former O-lineman from way back.