At age 25, Derek Schlieve isn't far removed from the players he'll be leading in the 2004 season.
Schlieve became the head football coach for the Pillager Huskies June 1. He replaces Dan Boushee, who stepped down after two years.
"For me personally, he was our top choice," said Boushee, who also is Pillager's athletic director. "He did a great job for me last year. It was a good fit for him."
Schlieve played football and graduated from Mayville (N.D.) State University. Before coming to Pillager last year, he had a one-year stint as an assistant football coach at Wahpeton (N.D.) High School.
"It was a goal of mine to become a head football coach," said Schlieve, who was Pillager's head girls' basketball coach last year. "I was looking to get that the quickest route possible.
"The girls had worked hard and they deserve the best, but when it came down to making a decision between head football and head girls' basketball, I went with what I've been doing for the last 10 years."
Last year Schlieve was Pillager's defensive coordinator. His unit recovered 21 fumbles, intercepted two passes and registered 13 sacks.
"He brought intensity and a lot of hard work," said Boushee. "The kids really played hard for him on the defensive side of the ball.
"It comes through on his coaching style. He's intense, but gentle. He does everything and anything for his players."
Schlieve will continue the opportunistic defense. He hopes to create a similar offense by keeping last year's attack.
"Offensively we'll continue to run the double-wing T," said Schlieve, who finished conducting a summer camp Thursday. "Last year the players were just seeing it and were a little skeptical. It always takes a little bit when a new coach comes in. After seeing how we progressed throughout the year and the progress the other schools made with it, they bought into the system.
"The first three days of our camp went great. They really bought into it. They seemed to know where to go and why each step was the way it was."
Schlieve realizes the first year will be a learning one. He admitted there are numerous behind-the-scenes responsibilities he has to learn. One of those will be creating realistic expectations within a proud program.
"We try to make it realistic and look at how many players we've lost," said Schlieve. "We come in trying to make the goals realistic so we can obtain them and always try to get better."
Teaches: Sixth grade
College: Mayville State University
Prior: Pillager defensive coordinator, Pillager girls' basketball coach
Boushee guided Pillager to the 2002 Class 1A state tournament and a 7-4 record. Last year Pillager finished 1-8 and lost in the first round of the Section 6 playoffs.
He cited an expanding role in the community education program and an expanding family for leaving his position.
"We're adding another family member at the end of July," said Boushee. "After having our first child, my priorities changed. I wasn't willing to put in as much time or commitment as I wanted.
"I'm sure I'll miss it, but I know the team is in good hands."
Schlieve is excited and eager to start his new position. He believes his youth and energy will be a benefit to the program.
"I was in their shoes just 10 years ago for some, just five years ago with the guys that are heading off to college," said the sixth-grade teacher. "They can see someone that just came from where they want to go. It keeps it closer.
"With the game evolving so much, the use of the weight room and off-season conditioning and training, they see someone coming in that has had all that and it gives you credibility right from the start."
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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