Longtime South Summit coaches call it quits
For the last 11 years, the South Summit High School football team has had two familiar faces patrolling the sidelines in Jerry Parker and Aaron Tillett.
For 10 years, Parker served as head coach and Tillett held the title of defensive coordinator. This past season they switched roles, with Tillett transitioning to the head coach role and Parker taking over as offensive coordinator.
Next year, though, the Wildcats will have two new faces in those roles, as both Tillett and Parker have decided to step down from the football program.
Tillett’s son, Isaac, just finished his senior season, while his daughter, Jillian, completed her freshman season on the cross-country team. He said he wants to keep his autumns free to watch Jillian compete for the next few years.
"I want to spend time watching her run cross country," he said. "She’s only a freshman so I’ve got three years of that. I talked to my wife and decided it’s time. It just felt right."
Tillett said Parker’s decision to hang up the whistle also made his decision easier.
"That was a factor as well," he said. "We’ve been together for 11 years. You don’t coach alone; nobody coaches alone. I’ve been lucky to have a great staff this year that stayed out from last year. I’ve been around too long to want to start fresh again."
Parker said he enjoyed the camaraderie with the players and the coaching staff and was happy to have Tillett along for the ride.
"It was never my program or his program — it was our program," he said. "It was a great situation."
Looking back over the last 11 years, Tillett said he’s proud of what he and Parker accomplished. Their 11 seasons together have produced five state championship appearances and two state titles. The Wildcats have made it to at least the 2A semifinals seven of the last eight years.
"We built a nice little program," Tillett said. "When we got here, South Summit was a little bit down. When Coach Parker took over and I joined him, we’ve taken the program a whole new direction."
Parker said he’ll always remember the two titles the Wildcats won (in 2013 and 2014) because of how different they were.
"For me, personally, the first championship was the hardest [to win]," he said. "For the second one, we were really good."
Tillett said whoever takes over the football program in 2016 won’t be stepping into a bad situation. The entire South Summit football program — from freshmen to JV to varsity — lost a grand total of one game (the 2A state title game against Beaver) all year.
"I think the program has really good players," he said. "We win a lot in our program. I suspect whoever takes over will have a full cupboard. It’ll be exciting for them."
"There are great kids coming," Parker added. "Next year’s seniors are a little shy in numbers, but I think the program is in great shape."
Tillett, who spent time with Ben Lomond and Weber high schools before coming to South Summit, said he won’t rule out a return to coaching.
"I don’t see myself ever being a head coach again, but coaching, that’s a possibility," he said. "I’ve still got over 10 years of teaching to go. I haven’t lost the desire to coach, it’s just that things pile up and you have to make choices. I just like to be a part of stuff, though — I don’t have to be in charge of anything."
For Parker, who retired from teaching after the 2014-15 school year, not having football practices on his schedule will allow him to pursue other interests.
"I’ve got to get serious about finding something to do," he laughed.
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.