It seems hard to believe that just four short seasons ago Olive Branch High School football went 0-11 under former head coach Pete Hurt.
Enter Tyler Turner, who in his first season taking over the Conquistadors led them back to the program that was expected around the state.
Turner would lead Olive Branch to a 33-8 record over the course of three seasons and two MHSAA 5A North Half Final appearances.
After this past season, Turner announced he would be moving to and coach at Goodpasture Christian School in Nashville, Tennessee.
Turner raised the expectations mightily, and now it is up to his former high school football coach Darren Bowling to continue to raise those standards.
Bowling comes to Olive Branch from Union City High School, Tennessee, where he won 116 games and four TSSAA state titles in his 12 seasons as its head coach.
Bowling is highly regarded as one of the best coaches in Tennessee high school football and has been recognized as the Tennessee Titans High School Coach of the Year in 2013. He was a finalist for the same award in 2017.
Previously, Bowling coached at Indianola Academy, Mississippi; and at Obion County and Dyersburg, Tennessee high schools, compiling a record of 223-100 over his 20-year coaching career.
“It was time for a new challenge for me,” Bowling said. “You look at a bigger area of impact with these kids. If I can be a part of 35 kids’ lives or I can be a part of 100 kids’ lives, I’m going to choose to be a part of 100. That’s what a school like Olive Branch can do for you.”
Making an impact is something that Bowling says got him into coaching to begin with. When it comes to coaching strategy, that is exactly what the strategy is.
“The character of your kids that you have and the work of your kids is everything,” said Bowling. “If you have kids that have great character, work ethics, and are just great people, then winning will come. At the end of the day, people won’t remember the wins and losses. It’s about who you are and what kind of man you are. That is our strategy.”
Bowling takes over for his former high school player, which played a big part in the decision to take over at Olive Branch.
“I knew what I was coming into,” he said. “That plays a big part in what was a big decision. I knew Tyler was going to have these kids disciplined and ready to win because that’s what kind of player he was for me. He is a wonderful coach and an even better man. He has built something really good, really quick and I’m excited to keep it growing.”
Under Turner, Olive Branch has been known for its stifling defense, but Bowling says it is the offense that will be electric next year.
“I always find myself taking over the offense,” Bowling explained. “It’s about precision, timing, and execution every single snap. That has always fascinated me. As a coach and a scholar, you just can’t help but just love the amount of detail that a successful offense takes.
For Bowling, improvements will be tough to make on an Olive Branch team that has produced its fair share of Division 1 and NFL talent in recent years. That challenge is what Bowling says makes this move the best move for him and his family.
Alex Gomez is a DeSoto County sportswriter who contributes to the DeSoto Times-Tribune.