Add another hat to Derek Beard’s growing collection at Du Quoin.
The Indians’ boys’ track and field coach and athletic director is now the new football coach as of Wednesday night. A school board meeting resulted in Beard succeeding AJ Hill, who went 27-15 in four seasons before resigning on March 20 to take a job at a school near Springfield.
A volunteer assistant since 2005, Beard has worked under Al Martin and Hill, and also played for Martin. In fact, Beard said he had participated in offseason meetings with Hill to discuss the 2019 squad before Hill opted to leave.
“We have the pieces to be good,” Beard said Thursday morning. “We just have to get better every day. We had already talked about the guys coming back. Those plans aren’t going to change.”
Beard bleeds Du Quoin red through and through. His dad coached and also served as the principal there. Beard has also won a sectional title last year with the track program, and could very well make it two in a row next week.
The opportunity to lead Indians football definitely appealed to him.
“I’ve always had a hand in it in some way, whether I was a little kid watching the games or playing for Du Quoin,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that care about this program. You see all the people that are involved every Friday night – the band, the cheerleaders, younger kids who look up to the players.
“It’s a special place for me. This felt like the right time for me.”
In the end, Beard beat four other candidates, including two from outside the school system, for the job. It is one of the most storied football positions in the area. The Indians have qualified for the playoffs in 32 of the last 35 years, winning Class 3A titles under Martin in 1988 and 1992.
Beard will have to replace one of the best running backs in the area in Westly Milam, along with quarterback Josh Heape and safety Shamar Adams. But Dasani Edward, a big-play wide receiver, gives the team a chance for a touchdown any time he touches the ball.
Du Quoin also attracts tremendous numbers for its tradition-rich program. While other schools are struggling to get players out, the Indians issued jerseys and equipment to 100 players on the opening day of practice last August.
That’s just one reason why Beard believes Du Quoin is capable of contending in SIRR Mississippi.
“It’s definitely attainable here,” he said when asked about instant success. “It’s just a matter of putting in the work every single day.”