Etna senior moves to Biggs for the chance to play football

Bill Choy
Mount Shasta Herald
Parker Finley runs down the field versus Los Molinos.

When the Shasta Cascade League decided it wouldn't offer football this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the season ended before it began for the Etna Lions gridiron squad. But that did not stop Etna High School senior Parker Finley from finding a way to play.

Due to the California Interscholastic Federation's more relaxed transfer requirements due to the pandemic, Finley – a standout player for the Lions who recently signed with NAIA program College of Idaho – transferred at the end of February to Biggs High School so he could play the sport he loves.

Finley is one of two EHS seniors who transferred to other schools to play football. Brady Lewis is a starting defensive end for the South Medford Lions in Medford, Ore.

Mount Shasta High School seniors DJ Brown and Phillip Gunther traded their blue and gold for red and gold by transferring to Yreka High School to play football for the Miners.

“It's definitely different,” Finley said about Biggs, which is a three hour drive from his home in the Scott Valley. “I’m just grateful I still get an opportunity to play.” 

Parker Finley during a football visit to College of Idaho.

During the week, Finely stays at the home of his mom’s best friend from college, who lives in Durham with her family, and makes a 20-minute commute to Biggs. Finley is a key part of a Wolverines team, which is 3-0 so far in a six-game spring season. Finley's been a key contributor on both offense and defense.

Biggs has outscored opponents 165 to 28 so far this season. Finley has averaged 80 to 100 yards per game on a team stacked at running back. He has taken two kickoff returns for touchdowns and has had two receiving scores. This included returning a kickoff 70 yards during the Wolverines' game against Maxwell Thursday night in a 62-12 victory.

While Finley has received less carries this season, somewhere between 8 and 12, he said it's not about individual stats but instead doing what he can to help his new team win. One difference, he said, is getting used to is seeing himself in a new uniform. Instead of the white and red of Etna High, Finley is wearing the bright green uniforms of the Wolverines. 

“It’s really fun to be with the other guys on the team,” Finley said. “We’re firing on all cylinders.” 

Finley said he was a bit nervous at first, but "everyone has been so nice and welcoming, which has helped me so much."

Parker said he knew Biggs had a good football program and was somewhat familiar with their head coach, Tyler Rutledge, from when the Bulldogs played Biggs. So when the chance to play football his senior year of his school presented itself, he jumped at the chance. 

“It's a chance to play football again, which I am grateful for every day,” Finley said. He said all that's happened over the past year made him appreciate the opportunity even more. “It makes me work as hard as I can and appreciate everything. You understand how quickly all of it can be taken away.” 

As a junior in 2019 at EHS, Parker finished the season with 1,189 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns. He averaged an exceptional 9.9 yards per carry and threw for three touchdowns. 

Coach Rutledge, who's also the principal at the school, said Parker has fit right in. He said Finley is the only player from another school that has transferred to play football this season.

Rutledge said he is good friends with Etna High School football coach Wade Dickinson, who raved about Parker. 

“He told me with this kid what you see is what get, and I would be getting a dedicated, hardworking player,” Rutledge said – a quality he saw for himself the first week Finley arrived.

One afternoon, he found Parker with one of the assistant coaches using a whiteboard going over plays he had already been memorized from the Wolverine's playbook. 

“He gets after it,” Rutlege said. "He has been this way from the beginning. He has brought a lot to our team and fits right in. Parker puts in the time and effort in all he does.” 

Rutlege said he is impressed with the way Parker is always encouraging and how he steps in and helps younger players as a positive role model. “He’s a humble kid,” Rutlege said. "He loves football and works so hard. He fits in so well and has become a team leader.” 

Finley said it's up in the air if he'll stay at Biggs the rest of the year or try to return to Etna once the football season concludes. One thing is for sure: he'll be heading to Idaho the end of July and wants to be prepared as he can. He said not playing in a football game for two seasons would have put him at a disadvantage.

More:Etna Lion Parker Finley to play football at College of Idaho

Finley said his family has been visiting his mom’s friend since he was young and he is close to her and her family, which has helped him to be away from home and prepare for college later this year.

“It’s nice to have this experience being away from home and seeing what it’s like,” he said. “It's all been worth it to be able to play again.” 

“Unfortunately for us in the Shasta Cascade league, we didn’t offer a season this spring,” EHS head coach Wade Dickinson said. “Although I believe it was the correct decision, I feel for the kids missing a football season. The state of California got this wrong from the get go. We should have played football in the fall.”