When UW-Whitewater receiver JT Parish caught a 41-yard pass from Zach Oles in the second quarter Saturday against UW-Platteville, he demonstrated he has advanced from his days at Cambridge High School.
Oles’ throw was into a wicked, chilly wind at Perkins Stadium. Parish adjusted his route as the ball hung into that wind, and snagged it with a defensive back draped on him.
Parish is showing he is no longer just a speed receiver.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound 2016 Cambridge High graduate made his mark with the Warhawks as a sophomore in 2018 with long touchdown catches against UW-Oshkosh and UW-La Crosse.
Parish has become a threat in the intermediate passing game, which should open up opportunities for Ryan Wisniewski and Derek Kumerow, who headline the top receiving group in the WIAC.
The offense is averaging 14 points less a game than its 41.6 points per game average put up in 2018 while going 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the WIAC.
The Warhawks could improve on that when they travel to UW-Stevens Point (2-3, 1-1) for a 1 p.m. game Saturday.
Despite catching fewer than two passes per game, Parish had seven touchdown catches last season and earned first-team all-WIAC honors. This season, he’s established himself as a reliable target in the intermediate passing game by catching at least two passes per game with one touchdown.
“His first year, he was really vertical and people started noticing who he was,” UW-Whitewater coach Kevin Bullis said. “To me, his confidence and competitiveness and physicality to make those plays with people draped on him comes down to great discipline—great mind discipline to be able to stay focused on what’s there.”
Parish burst onto the WIAC scene as a thin 6-foot-1 sophomore. Against UW-La Crosse, he ran right past a defender in man-to-man coverage on a slant route that resulted in an 81-yard scoring pass.
The next week, Parish caught two touchdown passes against UW-Oshkosh. The first was an 82-yarder and the second was a 76-yarder.
Parish showed off his top speed on both plays, but his ability to escape tacklers on the 82-yard score gave a hint of what was to come.
“Seeing him go across formations, there’s no doubt he’s developing himself to not just be a vertical guy, but a guy that can catch a ball anywhere,” Bullis said.
In the Concordia-Moorhead game this season, Parish shielded a defender and caught a first-down pass that set up a touchdown.
Parish’s big catch in the 21-14 Homecoming win against UW-Platteville last Saturday was the 41-yard completion. He added a 13-yard catch on a third-and-6 situation on that drive that set up a Warhawks’ field-goal attempt.
In the third quarter, Parish made an 18-yard catch on 3rd-and-3 from the UW-Whitewater 19-yard line. The grab started a drive that advanced to the Platteville 10 before a lost fumble gave the ball back to the Pioneers.
Turnover problems—the team has lost five fumbles and thrown an interception—has limited the offense.
The receivers could be a major part of an offensive revival. Outside of the top three targets, the Warhawks add in Sam Delany and Josh Ringleberg as slot-receiver types.
“Some of the physical catches that our wide receivers made (against UW-Platteville), Kumerow with those back-shoulder throws was beautiful,” Bullis said. “Rings (Ringleberg) had guys on his back when he made a catch. ...
“That’s a really talented group and we continue to be excited about them.”