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RGR Spotlight | 'We know what we're up against': DL Ricky Parga to use experience as a catalyst for Newton
Part of the RGR Spotlight series. New installments every Monday leading up to kickoff of the 2022 season.
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Throughout the 2021 Kansas high school football season, one trait Newton simply couldn’t shake — and one that could be attributed to a number of the losses the Railers suffered — was inexperience.
However, on a sophomore-heavy roster that featured only a handful of seniors, there was one playmaker who possessed a veteran experience unlike those on the field around him: defensive lineman Ricky Parga.
The rising senior has been a varsity Railer since he first stepped on campus as a freshman in the fall of 2019. In that time, he’s developed both a natural leadership among all of his teammates — regardless of which side of the ball they play on — along with an innate ability to compete with physically imposing offensive linemen.
“I’ve started on varsity since my freshman year,” Parga said. “I had the opportunity to learn and grow with the upperclassmen. I feel like I took a leadership role in my junior year with the defensive linemen because I was the only returning starter. … So I was the one with the experience and the seniority.”
When healthy and on the field, that experience and seniority allowed Parga to make big plays in big moments for Newton all season long a year ago. Now, with personnel turnover aplenty among the only senior-heavy unit featured last season in the defensive backs, he’ll be forced to take on that same role and workload in 2022.
“Our defense is young in the secondary, so we have some rebuilding to do,” Parga said. “But I thought we were pretty solid at the Benedictine camp we attended. Obviously, though, there are things we need to work on some more this summer.”
Change and improvement have been the themes of the offseason for the Railers with newly-hired head coach Greg Slade at the helm. “I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous about Coach Slade coming in as our new head coach with his new ideas and a whole new plan,” Parga said.
“But as I got to know him a little better and went through camp and workouts with him, he has my trust and my respect.”
With the soon-to-be four-year starter giving his stamp of approval on the new coaching staff, Parga is prepared to take his game to the next level — and knows exactly how to do so.
“Getting stronger and faster is my main focus right now,” Parga said. “I have to make up for my lack of height by being as fast and as strong as I can. I’m hoping to improve my get-off and use my hands more — as I’m already proud of my ability to out-muscle and outlast some of the offensive linemen that are three or four inches taller than me.”
And as Parga sizes up the brutal schedule that lies ahead for his team in 2022, there’s nothing that phases him. Two seasons ago, he was on the doorstep of taking down the almighty Derby Panthers in a narrow 43-31 defeat at Fischer Field Stadium.
Therefore, Parga — more than anyone else who’ll suit up in the black and gold this fall — knows what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division 1’s best.
“We know what we’re going up against, it’s nothing new,” Parga said. “We’ll be ready to compete with these teams. We had a young offense last year that lost some key players, but we have quite a few solid starters coming back.
I think we have the most to prove out of everyone. Coming off multiple losing seasons and now with a new head coach and other new coaches, we have to prove they didn’t come for nothing.”