It is not often that a Desert Vista High football fan will see junior quarterback Parker Navarro take a snap under center and fire a quick pass to a receiver off a simple three-step drop.
Navarro’s role on the team is more complicated than that.
The Thunder run the ball.
Navarro is among six Thunder players who have double-digit carries through six games. Junior running back Tyson Grubbs is among the most-talented rushers in 6A, with 678 yards and 11 touchdowns. The offensive line is full of big players who consistently get a push off the snap and open holes for DV’s array of quick and strong ball carriers.
The results speak for themselves. Desert Vista is 5-1 heading into Friday’s rivalry game at Mountain Pointe in the Ahwatukee Bowl.
Navarro has yet to attempt as many as 20 passes in a game. He has just eight touchdown passes in six games. His role has morphed into managing the game and complementing the rushing game by surprising foes with the occasional pass, usually off of play action.
“I think my biggest goal is just making the throws that I’m supposed to convert, the ones that are required to get first downs or keep drives alive,” Navarro said.
Navarro’s importance to Desert Vista reaches far beyond his numbers.
Thunder coach Dan Hinds preaches brotherhood to his team. He said that Navarro is a player who exemplifies that. While Navarro has acknowledged after games that he would enjoy throwing the ball a bit more, that is because he wants to be even more a part of the team’s success, not to pad his statistics.
“He’s a team player all the way through. He’s one of the main guys in our brotherhood. He doesn’t care about his stats, he just wants to win,” Hinds said.
Although the Thunder are a run-first team, they trust Navarro’s ability to read defenses and make correct play calls, even if that means he doesn’t pass as much.
Navarro threw an interception – just his third this season – on Desert Vista’s first offensive drive against Desert Ridge on Sept. 28. Rather than sulking, he was back on the field minutes later leading the offense to its first score. The Thunder marched 89 yards, primarily running the ball with junior Colby Humphrey because Grubbs was out with a foot injury. Humphrey suffered an injury late in the game and sat out the fourth quarter.
When the Jaguars inched nearly all 11 of their defenders into the box to stop the run, Navarro faked a handoff and fired a bullet to a wide-open receiver for a touchdown.
“It’s about reading the defense and exposing what they’re not covering,” Navarro said. “I try to do that and get the ball out to the guys quickly.”
Without always having the chance to find his flow in the offense, Navarro capitalizes on his limited chances to throw. Hinds said this production coupled with his leadership after a mistake are among the reasons he selected Navarro to lead this team.
“Parker’s very confident. That’s one of the things when I first met Parker, was his confidence. And, he’s the kind of kid that doesn’t get rattled by things at all. He’s a really competitive kid by nature, and I think it really helps him at his position.”
Navarro’s competitiveness and work ethic also impress his teammates, particularly the offensive line.
“He just keeps working, like he did all summer. When we give him time, he can make a lot of stuff happen,” senior lineman Michael Lonski said. “I truly wouldn’t want anybody else behind me as quarterback.”
The status of Grubbs and Humphrey for the Ahwatukee Bowl are not yet known. The Thunder’s top two rushers take the load off of Navarro. If neither can play, Navarro might be forced to pass more.
Desert Vista has four remaining games – three of them against teams that appear headed for the playoffs and will be out to improve their seeding. The Thunder plan to join the post-season party, too.
To do that, Navarro knows that his leadership and ability to make plays will be crucial. He is up to the challenge. The Thunder have not defeated Mountain Pointe since 2011, en route to the state championship.
“I know there’s a big tradition, and I think our all-time records are close,” Navarro said. “We hear from players of years past. That all makes it a really big deal for us. We’re excited for that and the rest of the season too.”