When Darrell Piske was hired as Tyler Lee’s new head football coach, it seemed as if everyone had an opinion. And most of them weren’t about him.

Some felt interim coach Randy Huffstickler, a longtime assistant under Mike Owens who retired in May of 2011, wasn’t given a fair shot despite a 1-9 season.

Others disagreed with TISD’s unorthodox hiring process, which reportedly led to several qualified candidates withdrawing from consideration.

But, the outside perception does not change the fact that Piske is now in charge of a Red Raiders program in dire need of a facelift.

“A lot of times when you’ve been losing and been struggling the give-up gets a lot easier,” said Piske, who compiled a 23-19 record the last four years at Class 3A Fairfield.  “They’re getting their mental attitude right now of outworking folks because everything’s going to come down to who quits first.”

Perhaps more than anything else, it was Piske’s track record for turning around programs that caught TISD’s attention during its coaching search. In the two years prior to Piske’s arrival in 2008, Fairfield managed three wins.

Oddly enough, Lee has just three wins in the last two years.

“Everybody goes through cycles and I can’t tell yet exactly why we’ve struggled the last couple of years,” Piske said. “Hopefully, we won’t see why. A lot of times in life, change is good. I’m hoping my wife never comes to that realization. Sometimes you just got to get a ladder and climb out of that rut.”

Piske said after developing a bond with his new players and coaches, the overall excitement level of the program has steadily risen.

That’s the first part when you go somewhere (new) is to make the kids understand that you didn’t have anything to do with the job coming open. You just applied for it and got it. You want to make sure they don’t hold it against you. And that’s the great thing about going to places that have been struggling … there’s not a greater feeling in the world to when you flip that switch and turn something around to know that the work and effort that you put in is worth it.”

The offensive side of the ball will be a big point of emphasis after averaging just 15 points per game in 2011. But it’s an offense that’s not short on promise.

Fullback Marcus White returns after leading the Red Raiders with 763 rushing yards. But Lee’s offensive success will hinge on its super-talented running back LaQuintas Wallace (5-10, 190), who’s shown glimpses of superstardom but has yet to realize the potential assigned him by coaches, fans and college recruiters.

“He’s a good kid,” Piske said. “Sometimes in life, it just throws you curves. But he’s overcome it so far and he’s been here every day and I think he missed one day of school the whole spring. The big deal with LaQuintas is figuring out what he wants to do with his life and making choices based on goals. I think he knows kind of where he wants to end up and what he wants to do.”

Piske could have already made his biggest first-year contribution.