Pioneering woman high school football coach suffers setback

Natalie Randolph is a bit of a high school sports trailblazer, so it’s no surprise that the first-year head football coach for Coolidge High School in Washington, D.C. has received plenty of attention. She's been profiled in every local media outlet, been featured in a handful of national stories and was even followed by ESPN cameras at her first practices. But buried beneath all the hoopla surrounding being one of -- if not the -- most high-profile woman to coach a high school football team are doubts over whether she can actually win games.

Now there's concern that those doubts could be more that just idle fears after Randolph's most significant leader, her anointed starting quarterback, transferred to rival Dunbar High School. As reported earlier this month by The Washington Post, Coolidge senior Stephon Stevens, who had quarterbacked the Colts in 7-on-7 passing-league tournaments throughout the summer, made the move to Dunbar just a day before D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association schools began fall practice. What's more, he gave up his spot as a quarterback to do so, becoming a safety and extra wide receiver in Dunbar's four-receiver sets.

[Related: Fans cheer for high school quarterback's injury ]

According to The Post, even Dunbar's head coach was surprised when Stevens showed up in his locker room.

Dunbar Coach Craig Jefferies said both of Stevens's parents graduated from Dunbar and he is cousins with Crimson Tide seniors Vance and Vernard Roberts, who have both orally committed to West Virginia.

Stevens "walked into our meeting on Monday," Jefferies said, "and I was like, 'Whoa. What are you doing here?'"

Stevens didn't even tell Randolph he was leaving before he was already gone, eventually informing Coolidge staff three days after he showed up to Dunbar's team meetings, completing his transfer to Dunbar that Thursday.

The move was controversial not only because it was the first significant departure under Randolph's watch, but also because it came well outside the designated D.C. transfer window, which closes Feb. 28 for a following academic year. Stevens isn't the first player to make a dramatic late switch of schools -- an issue that The Post has delved into in recent years -- but given his position and the important role he played in Randolph's plans, he might be the most notable ... or notorious, depending on how Coolidge's season turns out.

No matter what happens, Randolph deserves credit for putting her best face forward. She didn't waste any time reacting to the departure, despite her surprise when learning of Stephens' transfer after he had already enrolled at Dunbar.

"It happens, but we'll get over it," she told The Post.

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