JT coach leaving for Oak Ridge

John Tyler football coach Dereck Rush (right) receives the trophy after the Lions beat Highland Park in the 4A Division II regional round last week in Waco. (Christopher R. Vinn | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

The Conroe ISD school board approved the hire of Dereck Rush as the next head football coach at Oak Ridge High School Tuesday night.

Rush turned John Tyler’s storied program back into a state powerhouse during a memorable five-year tenure, leading the Lions to the Class 4A state semifinals last year after consecutive appearances in the state quarterfinals.

The move reunites Rush with Danny Long, his former boss at Tyler ISD now in his first year as athletic director with Conroe ISD. Long interviewed Rush twice last week according to one person with knowledge of the situation.

Four of Conroe ISD’s main four high schools compete in Class 5A: Conroe, Oak Ridge, The Woodlands and The Woodlands College Park. The city of Conroe, with an estimated population of 56,000, is 40 miles north of Houston, the state’s largest city.

Rush reportedly informed the Lions football team of his pending move earlier Tuesday before the school board made it official, a member of the coaching staff confirmed.

Going to Oak Ridge also puts Rush back in the 5A ranks, where Oak Ridge struggled last year during a 1-9 campaign, missing the playoffs for the first time in four years. Oak Ridge’s history, which includes seven playoff appearances, pales in comparison to JT’s. The Lions own 31 playoff appearances, three state championships, and are tied for sixth-most wins in state history among Class 5A and 4A programs.

Rush rebuilt JT into an elite team after the Lions went 1-9 in his first year as head coach. JT made the playoffs each of Rush’s last four seasons, including the school’s longest postseason run in 11 years back in December.

The 2008 team notched JT’s first playoff win in eight years. The 2009 team received a national ranking while still in 5A and produced the state’s player of the year. The 2010 team gained a regional ranking.

Rush charted a 42-23 overall record at JT, including 35-8 the past three years. JT won three district titles under Rush.

The Lions return 17 starters next year, including two all-state players and no fewer than five Division I recruits.

TISD athletic director Rod Kaspar, who replaced Long almost the same time a year ago, will oversee the search for the next JT coach.

With JT’s spring season previously scheduled to start May 1, and the final six weeks under way, the search must move fast.

Rush received the top JT post after he served as an assistant four years (2003 to 2006). One Lions assistant in the running to replace Rush is secondary coach Ricklan Holmes, a JT graduate who played at Oklahoma State and for the New England Patriots. Holmes’ secondary helped JT set a school record with 31 interceptions in 2010.

JT will be breaking in its fourth different coach in an 11-year span. Before the frequent turnover, Allen Wilson won 102 games, and led the Lions to their last state title in 1994, in 11 seasons as head coach (1991 to 2001).


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