Scrappy B.P. chasing history

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Brandi Parker hasn’t let injuries stop her from chasing the state’s goal record of 147. The sophomore has 85 goals.(The Vicksburg Paper/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[01/22/02]Brandi Parker hobbled across the Vicksburg High track. She grimaced with each step, pain shooting down a knee that’s had more needles go through it than an embroidery hoop.

Someone told her she may have to miss games against Clinton and Warren Central.

Suddenly, the knee felt better.

The grimace and limp magically disappeared. The pain didn’t.

“I’ll sit out the rest of the season until the playoffs, but I won’t miss Warren Central or Clinton,” the speedy, scrappy, 5-foot-4 forward said.

When her parents heard about the pain, she went through the same routine: “Oh, it feels better now,” she said.

So, of course, she played against Warren Central. And, not surprisingly, she led a late charge that helped lift VHS over the Lady Vikes.

Her knee was wrapped, but a brace that was on at the beginning of the game was quickly thrown to the sidelines because, “It was really rough with it on and I knew I was going to get hacked anyway.”

Her latest aches and pains have become the norm for a player on the cusp of becoming one of the best in state history.

As an eighth-grader, Parker tore the medial miniscus in her right knee and missed a good portion of the season, the first time that Vicksburg didn’t make the playoffs since the inaugural tournament, in 1996.

The following year against Warren Central, Parker went sliding for a loose ball and dislocated both knee caps at the same time.

“She’s always knock down, get up, knock down, get up,” Vicksburg coach Kevin Manton said. “Against Warren Central when she got knocked down and didn’t get up, I knew there was something wrong.”

She said she thought her legs were broken because she couldn’t straighten them out.

“After they popped them back in, I was ready to play again,” said Parker, gesturing to her mid-thigh saying she wishes she could cut off the rest of her legs and start over. “They made me go out of the game, but I wanted to be in there.”

Parker needed three weeks to heal, then came back for the playoffs with both knees braced.

“I think she scored one goal against Tupelo in her first game back and none after that,” Manton said. “But just having her on the field was a big lift.”

Parker’s been kicked so hard in the shins they’ve swollen up to the point where fluid needed to be drained.

“The doctor told me I might want to lie down so I don’t have to look at it,” Parker said, pointing to the incisions on her shin. “I said I wanted to watch and that I wouldn’t feel anything anyway.”

She watched for a little while.

“I looked down and all this stuff blood and puss and blood clots was coming out. (The doctor) kept pushing on my shin to get the rest out,” she said.

Even Parker, who, pound for pound, may be the toughest player ever at Vicksburg, couldn’t take anymore and looked away.

That’s usually the sentiment for every opposing coach in the state.

“Brandi is a real good player and has been for a long time,” Clinton coach Thomas Bobo said.

Quite possibly the most shocking thing about Parker is she’s a … gulp … sophomore.

“We wish she would go on and graduate,” Bobo said with a chuckle.

Her numbers certainly don’t look like a 15-year-old’s.

In 21/2 seasons, Parker has scored 85 goals. She netted 18 as an eighth-grader, 36 as a freshman and has 31 this year with at least five more games to play. Northwest Rankin grad Alissa Leffler holds the state’s single-season (52) and career scoring (147) records.

There has been some talk, because Leffler beat ex-Missy Gator Kristin Chapman’s scoring mark, that Vicksburg is letting Parker score at will in blowouts.

“I hear that sometimes, too, but I don’t want anyone to think anything bad about it,” Parker said. “That’s my job. I wouldn’t be able to do it if my defense didn’t back me up and my halfbacks didn’t pass me the ball.”

She’ll need to average 31 goals in her junior and senior seasons to overtake the state record.

“If it happens, it happens,” Manton said. “Records are set to be broken, so why not? If she is fortunate enough to break the record, it will give someone else something to shoot for.”

Parker wears No. 2 same as Chapman and she is finding out first-hand what opponents will do to stop a Missy Gator in that number.

Chapman, now at Ole Miss, was kicked, scratched, clawed, tripped and pushed around, all while turning opposing defenses into mush. She had the fire, too, like Parker.

“I don’t think they get on me nearly as bad as they did her,” Parker said of Chapman, who scored 126 goals in four seasons. Parker will get to play five years.

That fire was never more evident than in the latter stages of the Missy Gators’ win over WC. Vicksburg, trailing 1-0 after the Lady Vikes scored a fluke goal, had to beat WC to keep its division championship hopes alive.

“I got so mad,” Parker said of most of the WC game. “I told the team that it looked like we were playing rec ball and that I wasn’t going to have a repeat of my eighth-grade year.”

Her rookie season was the first in which the Missy Gators didn’t at least make the state championship game. A loss to Warren Central kept them out of the playoffs.

“This is probably our best shot and I didn’t want to have it end up like that,” said Parker, who scored the game-tying goal, then occupied a defender on Tayvi Ellis’ game-winner.

Parker, who’s been playing soccer since she was 5 years old, also excels on the Missy Gators’ softball team and runs track. Rumors swirl around Memorial Stadium that football coaches are interested in her as a punter and placekicker for next year.

“I’d try it,” she said with a smile.

Those are just the sports she plays. Vicksburg girls basketball coach Mike Coleman said she would, without a doubt, have a fighting chance to start at point guard for his team.

“Coach (Bobby) Huell told me she was just as good a basketball player as she is a soccer player,” Coleman said. “I think any program would want someone like her playing for them.”

She played on the eighth-grade team as a seventh-grader, but chose soccer the next year.

“It was hard choice,” Parker said. “But I thought I’d go a lot further in soccer.”

Colleges have yet to inundate Parker with mail, although she has received some letters from in-state schools. Her dream, though, is to dribble a soccer ball down Tobacco Road and play for the nation’s most dominating women’s soccer team in history the University of North Carolina.

In 22 seasons, the Tar Heels have won 16 national championships and played in 20 Final Fours. In the 22-year history of the program, UNC is an astounding 511-23-11.

She plays select soccer in the summers and may have an opportunity to play some in Europe in the near future. All will afford her opportunities to be seen outside Mississippi.

“Everyone knows who she is now,” Manton said. “She is such a fierce competitor. I sometimes wish some of the others would take it as personal as she does.

” … When she steps onto that field, it’s all business; time to get going. She’s played through all the bumps and bruises, and aches and pains. She’s just tough.”