Friday Night Lights: Derek Turner, OCS Saints have learned to adapt and overcome

Despite having a coaching staff mostly made up of volunteers, Oklahoma Christian School is a defending state champion.
by Jacob Unruh Published: September 26, 2013
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photo - Oklahoma Christian School football coaches, standing from left, Ted Wild, Harrison Turner, Willie Ward, head coach Derek Turner, and Zach Holland, kneeling from left are Dan Fallon, Farrold Smith, and Tucker Holland in Edmond, Okla., Tuesday, September 24, 2013. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman KOD
Oklahoma Christian School football coaches, standing from left, Ted Wild, Harrison Turner, Willie Ward, head coach Derek Turner, and Zach Holland, kneeling from left are Dan Fallon, Farrold Smith, and Tucker Holland in Edmond, Okla., Tuesday, September 24, 2013. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman KOD

EDMOND — Derek Turner reaches into his black Jeep Wrangler Rubicon searching for what “dirty hat” he is going to wear at practice.

It's 3:30 p.m. and he has just pulled up to Oklahoma Christian School's daily practice in what he affectionately refers to as his office.

Turner has his normal office as the owner of Turner and Co., a real estate development company in Edmond.

But since 2003, he's also served as a volunteer coach for the Saints as part of an unusual situation few schools face.

Turner had little to no coaching experience then as an assistant, instead using the technique learned while playing at Baylor as his guide.

OCS' new coach in 2004, Tracy Holland, handed Turner a stack of about eight VHS tapes to study.

“That's how we learned the defense,” Turner said.

Turner was from the old-school schemes of football such as the Okie 5-2 and the wishbone offense.

He learned well, eventually becoming the head coach when Holland left for the University of Central Oklahoma.

The Saints won the Class 2A championship last season, but it was a long, winding journey for Turner and the program, which hosts Crooked Oak on Friday.

Advancing past the first round of the playoffs was once a big obstacle after the program moved to 11-man football in the early 2000s. Then Turner and his staff, comprised primarily of volunteers, turned what Holland started into a small-school power literally out of the back of their vehicles.

“It's a unique situation because of the size of the school,” Turner said. “I mean, people get the misconception sometimes that you're a private school, that you've got this massive amount of endless funds, but it doesn't really happen that way.”

MORE THAN BASKETBALL

Tracy Holland knew the challenge he was facing when he took over the program in 2004.

There was little belief in the Saints' football program, while basketball stars Blake and Taylor Griffin ruled campus and dominated on the court.

The Saints had some eight-man success, reaching the state championship five times and losing each time. But the transition to 11-man was difficult.

Things slowly started to change, though.

Holland put together a staff of volunteers — much like the current staff that features his sons Zach and Tucker — that included Derek Turner and current assistant Dan Fallon, and he began teaching them how to coach.

Coaches meetings. Film study.

“We were trying to bring a little more sophistication to what we were about,” Holland said.

The teaching worked, and it worked well. When Holland left, he wanted Turner to be the coach.

It was perhaps the best move the school has made to date.

Coaches and players attest that it's Turner's love for his players that has led the way down the winding path.

“It's a huge blessing to be able to have him as a coach, just how much time he spends into us and puts into our lives, just the impact he's had,” senior Palmer Rice said. “He's just a great example for us.”

In 2010, OCS made the playoffs with a 4-6 record only to travel to powerful Millwood. Turner believes that's when the turning point was, after the Saints got hammered but still managed to outplay the Falcons in the second half, showing some resiliency that carried over to 2011.


by Jacob Unruh
Reporter
Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the...
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