Dumas senior safeties Tanner Koehn, Parker Dunnam have bonded since 7th grade

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Dumas defensive backs Tanner Koehn, left, and Parker Dunnam have played together in the secondary since their seventh-grade season. [Joe Garcia III/ Press Pass Sports]
When the Dumas Demons depart their run-thru tunnel before their football games this year Nos. 23 and 17 will be the final two leaving.

Departing last does not mean Tanner Koehn (No. 23) and Parker Dunnam (No. 17) won’t be hyped to the heavens for Friday Night Lights, it’s the opposite with these two football-loving senior safeties.

Exiting the tunnel last, with a prayer together to boot, is a part of the special bond formed by Koehn and Dunnam from the rare experience of playing side by side in a Dumas secondary since 7th grade.

Koehn, 5-10, 165, is the free safety. Dunnam, 5-9, 175, lines up at strong safety. Neither can tell you the opponent or score of the first game they played together on the same team, but both cherish the connection starting that day.

“I do remember our first football game playing together was 7th grade,” Dunnam said. “That’s a long time ago. I’ve known Tanner since elementary school and we played in the same Pee Wee League, but not on the same team.

“It’s all been a flash since then, so I don’t remember a lot about the game. But since that moment, and now, all the time together we have created a strong bond. I feel like we are on the same page and help each other out. We always know what’s going on.”

Koehn said the connection with Dunnam is the real deal as they embark on their sixth season playing safeties together on a Dumas defense.

“I don’t specifically remember the game,” Koehn said of the first time playing next to Dunnam. “I do know it was 7th grade. Through playing so long together it has just strengthened our bond on and off the field. Because we do hang out off the field, but ultimately, playing side by side pulled us together and we are able to communicate better. You can see it on the field between us two. I know where Parker is going to be all the time. Playing that much together you just get comfortable and really can predict what they are going to do. It’s amazing, honestly. Because most players don’t get the chance to have that bond. They may have met at the beginning of high school and then start playing. Since we go way back, it definitely helps. It’s amazing.”

Last year Dumas’ opening game against Wichita Falls Rider was the varsity starting debut of Koehn and Dunnam. The nerves were real for both.

“We were both young,” Dunnam said. “Pretty nerve wrecking. I think we will be good now. We both have experience and can’t wait to get going in that first game against Lubbock Cooper.”

Koehn lets out a little yelp of excitement when asked about the first varsity start next to his longtime friend.

“Going against a big school like Rider? It was nerves,” Koehn said.

Both obviously settled in helping Dumas roll to a 9-3 record, an impressive fifth consecutive district title, continuing the streak of 19 district wins in a row, and finishing off as regional semifinalist.

Koehn did battle a frustrating high ankle sprain missing several games.

Aaron Dunnam has been the head coach at Dumas for the last four of those district titles taking over for his brother, Chad, who with Aaron as a coordinator, guided the Demons to the first district title of the five-year run.

Aaron is Parker’s dad and has known Tanner since the third grade. Coach Dunnam said having two safeties play five years of games next to each other gives the Dumas defense a boost in experience.

“In the game of football trust is a big deal,” said Coach Dunnam, who owns a sparkling 41-9 record in four seasons at Dumas. “When you are beside somebody and playing together since the 7th grade at the two safety positions, I think it’s huge. They have a trust factor and a communication that nobody else has. Sometimes they do things not even vocally, they just understand each other so well. Stating off this season I thought our team started off with a lot of experience and those two playing together, it’s just even more. It’s really fun to watch.”

Coach Dunnam says Tanner and Parker each bring a different aspect to the game and thrive at getting along with their teammates.

“I think what Parker brings to our team is intelligence and knowledge of the game,” Coach Dunnam said. “He’s not the biggest, fastest kid. He’s not the greatest athlete but he lives and breathes the game. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the game never leaves him. A lot of kids go home and leave the game of football. He goes home and hears it more and more and more. I think that’s very fortunate, he may think the other way. But that is what he brings. He knows the game and has been around the game from the terminology and the ins and outs. He stood on the sideline as a ball boy and got on that bus and travelled to games with me.”

Coach Dunnam said Koehn is more of a cover safety and is primed for a special senior season.

“Tanner is a super talented kid,” Coach Dunnam said. “Last year he missed seven games with a high ankle sprain he just couldn’t get over. He certainly tried everything. Tanner has worked so hard in the weight room this off-season he has gained weight and a lot of muscle. … he is doing some really great things in two-a-days and I can’t wait to see those two on the field together.”

Parker, one of the Dumas captains this year, said Koehn is competitive as all get out.

“Tanner is a good leader,” Parker said. “He wants to win really bad, as the rest of us do. And I think he’s just a really good teammate and friend. It’s been awesome having him along for the ride. I mean, 7th grade and now we are on our senior year and last football season? I think our bond has grown tremendously. We are super tight.”

Tanner said he has all the respect in the world for the knowledge of the game Parker owns, and most of all, he has a friend for life by his side during football games.

“I really do want this senior year of football to be special for our whole team,” Tanner said. “Especially, since after high school Parker and I may split ways. I’m always going to be in touch with him after high school and all through life. But I’m never going to get to experience things on the football field again with him, most likely. I want to take it all in this year.”

Now, Tanner does hear good natured ribbing from his teammates and coaches almost daily about one thing still missing on his high school to do list: make an interception.

“We do joke about it,” Parker said. “He’s the only DB not to have an interception.”

Said Coach Dunnam: “We hound on him big time. It’s a fun thing.”

Tanner enjoys the jokes but said it’s time to hang on to a pass from the opponent’s quarterback.

“I even played slot (receiver) my freshman year and it’s been defense ever since,” Tanner said. “My hands have just gone downhill. I’m really looking forward to pick that up this year. I’ve had some chances and dropped it. It’s like, aww. It’s been eating at me.”

Tanner and Parker aren’t only on the same page as safeties, they have the same strong feels a Friday night game in Dumas brings on, along with owning the same dream for their beloved Dumas Demons football team in 2022.

“Friday nights in Dumas are awesome,” Parker said. “From waking up that morning for team breakfast, to lifting weights with the team. We have great moms that feed us and get out morning started off well. The culture around school is great with pep rallies and all kinds of different stuff going on that day. The stands are packed every home game we just go out there and play.

“It’s been amazing playing in Dumas. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world, on any other team in the state, with any other guys. I love being a Dumas Demon.”

Said Tanner: “Friday nights in Dumas are energetic, man. There’s nothing like it.”

Both agree, along with their teammates that includes 12 starters from last year, on the same goals for the 2022 Demons: keep the district title streak alive and end in Jerry’s World playing at AT&T Stadium for a Texas Class 4A Division I state championship.

“Those district games are important to us,” Parker said. “Now we have a five-team district, and you aren’t automatically in. That will boost that level of focus even more. And we want that state championship. We want to be at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. We want to go 16-0. Go win every game and win a state championship. That’s the goal.”

“We want to go farther than last year,” Tanner said. “And hopefully that’s to the state championship. That’s most definitely our end goal.”

Most definitely, Parker Dunnam and Tanner Koehn are recognized by fans on Friday nights by their jersey numbers. Parker wears No. 17, keeping a family tradition alive. Koehn has put on jersey No. 23 for what seems like forever.

“Seventeen has run in my family for a while,” Parker said. “My dad has worn 17, my uncle wore 17, my grandpa wore 17. I just have to keep it going.”

Coach Dunnam said watching Parker in No. 17 this year will be a rewarding and emotional experience for him.

“This will be really special for us,” Coach Dunnam said. “We have been waiting for this a long time, the part of him playing in high school, not waiting for him to leave. It will be very exciting but at the same time surreal. This is something we have waited for a long time and now it’s down to one football season. I’ll try my best to enjoy every moment of it and enjoy our time at the fieldhouse. And not just Parker, but all these kids. We invest so much in their lives. Any senior class is tough to see go.”

Tanner has been in a No. 23 jersey since he was a small tyke.

“I’ve worn 23 ever since first grade,” Tanner said. “I picked that number back in first grade I think because it’s my graduate year. I’ve stuck with it ever since.”

Tanner and Parker started their tradition last year of running out of the team tunnel last. They will continue doing so this season starting with the Lubbock Cooper game August 26 in Dumas.

To many, running out of tunnel together may seem like a little thing.

To Tanner and Parker it’s a biggie. No. 17 and No. 23 running out last continues an ever-growing bond between the two started back in third grade when Parker was the new kid in town and right away, “I liked the guy, he was one of my first friends,” Parker said of Tanner. Tanner already had his group of friends, and it took no time at all for Parker to fit in as “we were a bunch of athletes, and he definitely was part of that group right away.”

So yes, Tanner says, the run out of the tunnel is special for the two bonded Dumas safeties who have played together so long a simple nod, or a hand signal, is enough to know what the other guy is doing.

“Parker and I started that thing last year where we exit the tunnel last,” Tanner said. “And we pray together. I look forward to that. It has to be one of the most amazing feelings in the world.”

 

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