Darrell Piske is no longer head football coach for Robert E. Lee High School.
Piske was informed on Monday that he would be re-assigned following a 5-5 season in which the Red Raiders did not make the playoffs.
“It’s time for a change. I am sure the good Lord has some plans for me, but I don’t know what they are,” Piske said. “This is my first time in 31 years that somebody doesn’t want me to come back. Hopefully the kids learned some good life lessons and the (program) is in better shape than they were when I got here.”
Tyler ISD athletic director Greg Priest confirmed he informed Piske of this decision this morning during their regular weekly Monday meeting.
“I appreciate everything coach Piske has done, and his time and his leadership,” Priest said. “We want nothing but the best for our program and I appreciate everything he’s done for us. This was the time (to do this) to make sure we can have enough time to go out and get the best replacement we can. I think Piske did a very nice job as far as getting us here from where we had it, and now we are looking to find someone to take us to the next level.”
The new coach will be just the 11th in the school’s 57-year history.
The Red Raiders went 15-26 in Piske’s four years at Lee, highlighted by consecutive victories over cross-town rival John Tyler and a playoff appearance in 2014.
Under Piske, the normally defensive-minded ball control Red Raiders turned into an offensive juggernaut.
Lee regularly scored 40 or more points per game with quarterback Zach Hall shattering several school records for passing, rushing and touchdowns.
Lee went 5-5 in the regular season and 4-3 in district in 2014, reaching the playoffs thanks to a head-to-head win tiebreaker over Garland Sachse. The Red Raiders lost 76-47 against Waco Midway in a bi-district playoff loss.
Entering the 2015 season, Piske’s fourth at the helm, the Red Raiders were senior-laden on offense. Lee grabbed its first victory with a 69-38 win over JT, but lost its senior quarterback Hall to a knee injury in the process.
Lee dropped its first two district games with sophomore Chance Amie thrown into the fire as starter. Amie rallied the Red Raiders to victory against Garland Lakeview Centennial and Hall returned two weeks later against Garland to rally the team to another victory. REL won four of its final five games to finish 4-3 in district, just like in 2014. But this time, the tiebreaker went against the Red Raiders and their season ended despite Friday’s 41-35 win over Garland Naaman Forest.
REL senior linebacker Braden Coates believes Piske has left a positive legacy that he hopes the next coach and players will continue.
“It’s pretty upsetting to me because I am a senior, he’s my head coach and I am a big Darrell Piske supporter and all of the coaches are like my other fathers,” Coates said. “You have to think about where this whole thing was when (Piske got here). coach Piske has really brought it a lot further along. This next coach will come in, and if nothing else, coach Piske really started what could be the Robert E. Lee overhaul.”
Piske arrived at Lee in 2012 after a very successful stint at Fairfield.
In his four years with the Fairfield Eagles, Piske turned around a program that had won a combined three games in the two years before he arrived. Piske led Fairfield to a 9-2 record in 2010 and undefeated regular season last year. Prior to that, he was head coach at Valley Mills, a program that had not won more than four games in a season for the previous seven years. He led Valley Mills to the state semifinals in 2006 and was a Gordon Wood Coach of the Year finalist in 2006.
In 2012, The Red Raiders were coming off a 1-9 season under interim head coach Randy Huffstickler and had won a combined three games in three years.
“I am going to work hard, get after it and treat people right and treat the kids right. Really I want to raise expectations,” Piske told the Tyler Morning Telegraph in a Feb. 7, 2012 story. “My expectations of myself are going to be higher than any fan or administrator. I set a lot of expectations high on myself and I am going to have that of the kids and the coaches and we are going to reach those expectations.”
The Red Raiders went 1-9 his first year and winless in district.
In year two, 2013, REL improved to 4-6, going 3-1 in non-district and 1-5 in district. The season was highlighted by a 61-54 victory over Mesquite. It also included a second-straight shutout loss to John Tyler.
Last year the Red Raiders broke through against their rivals and made it to the postseason for the first time since 2010. The loss to Waco Midway left Lee at 5-6.
This year was marked as when REL would challenge for a district title and its first playoff win since 2009, but it turned out not to be. Lee squandered a 42-10 halftime lead in an eventual overtime loss to Lufkin and was humbled by Rockwall two weeks ago when REL trailed 44-7 at halftime before succumbing to a 65-35 loss.
Lee bounced back to win in comeback fashion on Friday after trailing 21-0 to winless Naaman Forest to once again finish the regular season 5-5 (4-3).
“Looking back with what we had we should have been 6-4,” Piske said. “We should have beaten Lufkin. That would have been realistic with what we had. This is part of life. You have ups and downs in life and thankfully the kids hung in there and battled and pulled out that last one.
“I wish the kids and (next head coach) the best of luck and I hope they win a state championship next year.”
Robert E. Lee Coaches Through the Years
Robert E. Lee coaches records (10) - Darrell Piske (2012-2015), 15-26 (.366); Randy Huffstickler (2011), 1-9 (.100); Mike Owens (1996-2010), 111-69 (.616); Biff Peterson (1986-1995), 54-46-7 (.537); David Gibson (1980-85), 20-37-3 (.358); Bill Farrington (1975-79), 14-33-3 (.310); Jim Prewitt (1973-74), 4-15-1 (.225); Don Barton (1966-1972), 36-26-4 (.575); Osborne Amburg (1960-65), 28-32 (.446); Willie “Shorty” Sirman (1958-59), 2-16-2 (.125).
Robert E. Lee coaches playoff appearances: Mike Owens (13), Biff Peterson (4), Darrell Piske (1)