Paul Parpet has been a high school football coach in Illinois for four decades.
But in those 44 years of coaching, Parpet has never had an undefeated team this late in the season. It’s been a special year in Lisle. Parpet’s Lions are 7-0 and have already claimed the Interstate Eight Small title, the school’s first conference championship since 1981.
“I always wanted to coach at a small school,” Parpet said. “When my daughters were going to Illinois State my wife and I would stop in Dwight on the way home. I’d always say to her ‘I’d love to coach in a small town like this.'”
Parpet, an inductee in the Illinois High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame, coached at Addison Trail until 2010. He retired as a head coach and said he’d never hold that position again. His family wasn’t so sure.
“We all knew he would be a head coach again,” Lisle assistant coach Johnny Parpet, Paul’s nephew, said. “Coaching is his drug. It’s something that he needs.”
After retiring from Addison Trail, Parpet was an assistant at Downers Grove North from 2010 until 2014. Then he was offered the top job at Lisle, the only head coaching offer he says was good enough to pull him out of retirement
Lisle isn’t quite Dwight but it’s the small town football environment he’d always been craving.
In his first season with the program, the Lions finished 1-8. The last two games of that season Lisle had just 12 players in uniform.
Parpet wasn’t discouraged instead, he used it to inspire his players.
“He told us by our senior year he’d want us to win the conference championship,” Lisle’s Charlie Waldusky said.
Slowly over the past three seasons the Lions have chipped away at that goal. The turning point came when they defeated Wilmington 27-6 in Week 3. It’s the first time Lisle has beaten Wilmington in 23 years.
“It made us look and say ‘alright, we can actually do this’,” Lisle receiver Nick Martich said.
In Week 5, Reed-Custer gave the Lions their biggest challenge of the season.
Lisle trailed by 14 with six minutes left to play. But Parpet was smiling.
“I remember we ran over to the sideline and he was smiling,” Waldusky said. “He looked at us and just said ‘go out there and have fun’.”
Lisle came back to win 24-21 on a 22-yard field goal by Jay McGrath, who also plays quarterback.
The Lions host Sandwich on Saturday at 7 p.m. and will wrap up the regular season at Coal City.
Parpet has coached in two state championship games, 1983 and 1997 at Addison Trail. He says it has never been about the wins, but making it back to state is always the goal.
“You chase it because that’s the ultimate,” Parpet said. “I would like the community of Lisle to experience getting to a state championship game. If you get there, the first place trophy is just as heavy as the second place trophy so why not take home first?”
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