Northeast Tarrant

Sex offender coached for years in Tarrant County pee-wee football league, ex-coach says

A registered sex offender has been an assistant coach on teams in the Mid-Cities Peewee Football League in Hurst, and he’s been coaching there for about three years, according to Texas Department of Public Safety records and a former league coach.

Philon Deberry is not barred from being around children, an attorney for the league told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Thursday, but league policy is supposed to prevent anyone from coaching who is a registered sex offender.

Joshua Graham of Fort Worth, the league’s attorney, said Deberry never received a background check because he was not an official assistant coach, simply a parent. It was the responsibility of Mid-Cities Peewee coach James Tillotson to get the driver’s license of Deberry, who had been his assistant, Graham said.

Tillotson was the league’s director of registration and a head coach.

“The parent’s presence at practices and games has been limited to the same attendance rules as the general public,” Graham said in a statement released by the league. “The league’s first priority is to protect our players and make learning our sport a wonderful experience.”

Tillotson resigned from the league Wednesday night, Graham said.

Tillotson, who had Deberry as an assistant, said Deberry went to league officials and filled out an application and submitted his own identification. Graham said Deberry went to register his son.

In a Wednesday telephone interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Tillotson said Deberry had told him he had been in trouble a few years ago over an assault and had attended an anger management program.

“I wasn’t aware it was a sexual assault until a parent told me about over the weekend,” Tillotson said.

Deberry was a teacher and wrestling coach at Moises Molina High School in Dallas, but he was sentenced to 10 years’ probation in 2015 for sexual assault, to which he pleaded no contest. He also pleaded guilty to having an improper relationship with a student and received five years’ probation on that charge. The sentences are being served concurrently.

Deberry, 49, also had to register as a sex offender for life. He could not be reached for comment.

For about three years, Deberry had been an assistant coach in the peewee league, which has about 500 players and cheerleaders. Most of their games are played at Central Junior High in Euless.

The league, one of the oldest in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford area, consists of four different football leagues — two flag divisions and two tackle leagues — and three different cheerleading leagues.

The season is from September to the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Costs range from $80 in the junior flag, $125 in senior flag and $180 for junior and senior tackle leagues.

Deberry was coaching in senior flag, which is for first- and second-graders or ages 6, 7 and 8., Tillotson said.

The Mid-Cities Peewee website says a parent can notify league officials about coaching when they register their child. League officials then contact the parent and all coaches go through a certification process.

Each coach or volunteer helping must have a background check, according to the league’s website. A team mom also must have a background check.

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