August 28, 2010
For all that's been made of Coolidge (D.C.) High School head coach Natalie Randolph's trailblazing story, her team had yet to play a game. When they finally kicked off the season on Friday night, the results were less than impressive.
With dozens of cameras looking on, Randolph's Coolidge was blanked 28-0 by intra-city rival Archbishop Carroll last night. Despite moving the ball, the Colts never broke through to the end zone, a frailty contrasted by the success of a Carroll freshman -- running back Jonathan Haden, the younger brother of former Florida Gator Joe Haden -- who scored twice himself.
The only thing more striking than the final scoreline was the media glare around the game. The Washington Post reported that a full 24 media members attended Randolph's postgame press conference, and that a television boom microphone hung over her for the entire game while she was on the sideline. If her players didn't know their season opener was a national occasion, that kind of accoutrement will tip you off.
Randolph tried to downplay the hype to her players according to Fanhouse, which was among the media throng at the opener.
"It's only a football game, it's only a football game. The only reason everybody is so excited about it is because I have different parts than everybody.''
Otherwise, she said after the game, "It's always been about football and not all the other stuff. This is a football team, and it's like I told the kids, we're playing a football game, and we have to go try and win it.''
The video above does a good job of capturing the general pandemonium surrounding Randolph's debut.
The season opening setback will only flame lingering doubts some harbor over whether the rookie head coach can actually win games. Randolph only coached receivers at H.D. Woodson High School before being named Coolidge's coach, and her team's preseason was most notable for the defection of her planned starting quarterback. Friday's loss puts another point on the timeline of an inauspicious start.
Loss or not, the loss to Carroll was a seminal moment for Randolph -- The Natalie Randolph regime has begun, as the public address announcer said just before kickoff -- and, perhaps, for high school football. A smattering of women have coached a high school team in the past, but Randolph's debut came for a significant program in a major city. That alone made the Carroll game a historic moment.
But as much as she may have achieved simply by walking through the tunnel with her players, Randolph will achieve much more when her team notches its first win. They'll get another chance next Friday when they host Friendly, another D.C. foe.