by Craig Beilfuss

The last time Muskegon Heights started out its football season 3-0, was way back during the 2009 season when it jumped out of the gate at 5-0.

Current Tiger head coach, Van Parker, was a senior on that 2009 team.

That was then, this is now.

Muskegon Heights football Coach Van Parker gives direction during a practice earlier this season. Photo/Jason Goorman

Muskegon Heights opens up Lakes 8 Activities Conference play this Friday when they travel north to take on Manistee, who enters in with a 2-1 record overall. The Chippewas are 1-0 in conference play after a convincing 41-12 win over Ludington last week.

“Team goals are always to make the playoffs, win conference, and make a run, along with making our program respectable,” said Parker.

Tiger fans have to go back to the early 90’s (92-93) to find the last Muskegon Heights’ conference championship in football and Parker is hoping to change that.

Parker, a 2010 Tiger grad, excelled in baseball, basketball and football. He attended a variety of colleges, eventually graduating from William Penn University (IA) in 2016. Along with heading up the Muskegon Heights football program, he is also the PE/Health teacher for the school district.

“Coaching has always been the dream after playing,” said Parker who got his start as a student assistant at William Penn University, which led to a position as a Graduate Assistant and wide receiver’s coach.

Parker’s playing and coaching experiences at William and Penn led him to getting the Tigers head coaching job at the young age of 26. Parker’s collegiate experience also led him overseas where he coached in the Czech Republic.

Last season, the Tigers didn’t field a football program. But maybe that has helped the program gain new energy.

Parker sets his team up for a drill during a Week 1 practice. Photo/Jason Goorman

“Our fan base is excited to see people back around,” said Parker. “Good energy is what our young men need and I’m praying things continue to go up.”

Thus far, the Tiger head coach has been pleased with what he has seen from his squad.

“Defensively, we have been lights out. Our guys are flying around, being aggressive and disciplined. We have to continue to get better,” said Parker. “Offensively we have been effective, but we have to tighten things up in a lot of areas. But we’ve been able to create explosive plays, so I’m proud of that.”

A few of Parker’s key Tigers have stood out during the early part of the season and have helped make the team as a whole, successful.

Anthony Floyd has been a consistent force in the run game as well as on defense and Ashton Smith has been a big play waiting to happen and tough in coverage.

Defender Jimarea Jackson has been a hard hitter while Devin Cooper is leading the defense and is making things happen up front. Things like nine sacks against visiting Grandville Calvin Christian in Week 2’s win.

Damond Davis has been consistent on both sides of the ball. Jakari Edwards has been driving the car and G’Nari Davis has been great all around. Darice Totten is a really tough football player and Deshawn Warren has been leading the way up front.

“All of our guys have been awesome,” said Parker.

Players stretch out at practice as Parker looks over his team. Photo/Jason Goorman

During his young coaching career, Parker pointed out the amount of encouragement he received and is part of why he is finding success this season.

“I have learned and been motivated by a ton of great coaches,” said Parker who played for Willie Snead III his junior and senior seasons. “That list starts with the likes of Dashawn Moffett, Tommy Elliott, Keith Guy, Willie Snead III, LeRoy Foster, Aaron James, and Dale Stewart. College coaches Aaron Hinnah and Todd Hafner.”

And Parker’s list is continuing to grow.

“I have a ton of great people in my corner that are always willing to help,” said Parker.

Muskegon Heights is off to a disciplined 3-0 start and that is a big confidence boost to Parker’s program.

“It’s a great confidence booster. They now know that winning is in our reach as long as we take care of our business,” said Parker. “We have to continue to have overall team discipline, make less mistakes, and continue to stay together and fight together as a team.”

The Tiger coach is ecstatic seeing fans back in the stadium like they were at his team’s home opener against Calvin Christian.

Parker had a clear message to the Muskegon Heights fans base as he talked about the exciting 3-0 start.

“Let’s bring that Tiger pride back,” said Parker. “It’s a beautiful site when the Heights come together. Stay with us. The kids need your positive energy.”