East Noble quarterback Bailey Parker

East Noble junior quarterback Bailey Parker carries the ball up the middle of the DeKalb defense during a game last season.

KENDALLVILLE — When East Noble head football coach Luke Amstutz said it, a follow-up question was required.

“Bailey (Parker) might be the best quarterback I’ve ever had, as far as his ability right now,” Amstutz said a football media day on Friday, July 26.

Wait, did he just say what I thought he said?

Amstutz didn’t shy away from the follow-up question either.

“Bailey’s super athletic, he’s a leader, he works his butt off and has waited his turn to be the guy. He’s the guy. He was the guy last year and made big plays, gained a lot of experience. I think the game is really going to slow down for him this year,” Amstutz said.

Parker followed in the footsteps of arguably the best quarterback to come through East Noble in Andrew McCormick, which is why a follow-up question was warranted. McCormick is now at the University of Saint Francis. He started his college career at Indiana State University before transferring to USF in January.

McCormick holds East Noble football’s career records for passing yards (6,591), passing touchdowns (84), completed passes (526) and completion percentage (70.7 percent). He led the Knights to 24 victories in his three seasons as a starter from 2015-17, and also rushed for 2,444 yards in his prep career.

Before McCormick there was Harold Wolfe and AJ Dove. Both great passers in their own right.

The numbers Parker will finish with at the end of his East Noble career won’t come close to McCormick’s ridiculous numbers because he won’t have the chance to be the starter as long as McCormick. Parker will be the starting quarterback for two seasons. McCormick was the starter for three full seasons.

However, the Knights hope Parker can replicate what McCormick did in his second year as the starter.

McCormick made a significant jump from 2015 (his sophomore season and first year as the starting quarterback) to 2016. His completions, completion percentage and touchdowns all increased.

Parker will have all of the tools around him to make that leap. Amstutz said a solid offensive line returns to protect and open up holes for Parker and a really good receiving core is at his disposal, which should help Parker and the Knights’ offense succeed.

Athletic receivers like Hayden Jones and Gage Ernsberger both return, and Parker said he put in the extra work with all of his receivers after practice this summer and has “way more (chemistry) than last year.”

“We spend extra time after practice. I feel like I have more trust for them coming into this year, because last year I was kind of iffy about it,” Parker said. “This year, I feel like I can always rely on them. I don’t have to single out receivers that I do trust. I feel like I trust all of the receivers the same this year.”

“I think they had a really good summer, timing wise and confidence wise. We have some young receivers that we have high hopes for that stepped in and did a great job,” Amstutz said.

Last season as a junior, Parker threw for 1,597 passing yards with a completion percentage of 57.5 percent and a 13-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also ran for 797 yards and nine touchdowns.

During this offseason, Parker trained at Traction Athletic Performance in Fort Wayne, led by Dre Muhammed and Lawrence Barnett.

“I’ve become stronger and my mental game has increased by watching film of last year and realizing the small things I did wrong and fixing those for this year,” Parker said.

“I think the focus for him this offseason was to get bigger and more physical and he’s done it,” Amstutz said. “He’s a tremendous athlete. He can get the ball all over the field. There’s very few quarterbacks in the area that can do what he can do with a mix of running and throwing the ball, as well as being an excellent defender.”

As a safety in 2018, Parker had a total of 55 tackles, five tackles for loss and two interceptions.

Parker’s hard work is paying off. He has three scholarship offers to play at the next level.

Parker said NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision schools from the Mid-American Conference, MAC, are waiting until after this season to decide if they would like to offer him a scholarship. He has offers from Valparaiso, Saint Francis and Siena Heights. Valparaiso competes in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision and is a member of the Pioneer Football League. Both Saint Francis and Siena Heights are NAIA programs that compete in the Mid-States Football Association.

Parker expects a lot of himself and for his team for 2019. He’s put in the work during the offseason and thinks this year’s East Noble team can do something special.

“My expectations for the team are that we go an win state,” Parker said.

The last time the Knights won the state title was in 2000. They haven’t made it past the sectional round since their last state run in 2003. But according to Parker, the whole team is on board with the high ambitions.

“We all have the same goal. That’s state,” Parker said. “We all hold ourselves accountable and we feel like our team is able to make it to state.”

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