Most of the faces in the Ridge View gymnasium Tuesday night did not recognize Perry Parks, who quietly spent much of the night tucked away into the far corner.
But they will soon enough.
Parks was given approval by the school board earlier that evening to become the school’s third head coach and was later introduced to the crowd during halftime of the boys basketball game. The 30-year-old comes to the Blazers hoping to implement the same rebuilding plan that led to his recent success at nearby Lakewood.
“It’s a total rebranding process,” he said. “You’ve got to come in and create excitement and let the kids know you’re here to help them, first and foremost. We’re going to work but we’re going to have fun as a group.
“We’ll have a common goal to put the product on the field this community and this school can be proud of every Friday night.”
Parks, a former wide receiver at Sumter High and Coastal Carolina, believes he has the formula to revitalize the stagnant Blazers program. His 6-5 mark with the Gators in 2014 was the school’s second-best, and it came after a win-loss total of 3-17 during his first two years.
It was that type of rebuilding job athletics director David Gordon sought in a candidate. The Blazers have won more than three games in a season once since 2007.
Raymond Jennings, who coached the team for 11 seasons, was relieved of his duties in November after going 55-76.
“There’s no secret. We haven’t had a winning season in seven years,” Gordon said. “We need somebody that we felt understood the process and what it’s going to take to build the program. And not just our football team, but also our community and gathering support for the program.”
Parks fit the mold. He seemingly won over the Ridge View interview team during his conversation, the first the school held with prospective coaches.
“We interviewed several candidates,” Gordon said. “But he set the bar high, that’s for sure.”
Parks will bring his spread offense and multiple formations to a Blazer team that struggled offensively over the past several seasons. His Lakewood group averaged 25.6 points per game in 2014 and saw a pair of running backs combine for 1,895 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.
His goal remains to bring similar success to Ridge View as it begins its steady ascension back up the 4-A ranks.
“You look back at the school’s tradition, it’s a school that’s played for a state title,” Parks said. “... We’re already in the upper category at least for playing for one here at Ridge View. I think it’s getting the kids to believe in that and buy into it. Bring back that sense of pride that was originally here.”