The Randolph High School gridiron squad, the tough red and white Cardinals, has racked up a winning streak of four games in a row halfway through its season. Going into last Friday night’s game against Silver Creek/Forestville (1-3 on the season so far) Randolph carried a record of 4-0 overall and 3-0 in league play, racking up a total of 171 points on offense while their defense allowed their opponents to score only 22 points.
Coach Brent Brown, taking the reins this year as head coach following last year’s retirement of 34 year coaching veteran Pat Slater, believes in a basic playbook. “We’re a hard-running team on offense,” Slater explains. “We stay away from complex plays. We know the basics so we can run them hard every time.” That part of Coach Slater’s gamebook has stayed pretty much the same. In the 2009 season, Brown recalled, over a stretch of five straight games the team didn’t throw a single pass. “Didn’t need to, we’re a running team.” On a visit to a recent practice, however, fans saw a bit of passing and receiving practice along the sidelines. “We might toss one now and then,” Brown said with a smile, “just to mix things up for their defense.”
Friday’s game against a merged Silver Creek/Forestville team pitted Randolph against coaches and players who had not played together before this season and with coaching reassignments likely to change strategies and playbooks to the field. “Their changes will make it a challenge to read their plays,” Brown predicted, “but I expect their offense to be all zone.”
On defense Randolph relies on the tried and true 4/3 lineup. Randolph, however, also fields a weapon on both offense and defense few other local teams can match. “We’re a real physical team,” Coach Brown said. In a roster of 33 players, 10 weigh in at more than 200 pounds, creating a formidable lineup of defensive tackles and offensive linemen.
Coach Brown, who has been teaching physical education at Randolph for 24 years, says, “What I like best is the competition, it’s great fun and these boys are great to work with. I really enjoy seeing them get better every year.” Eleven seniors will graduate this year and 18 juniors are positioned to move up. “Our Pee Wee and Midget programs are great,” Brown said. “When the boys get here they’re ready to play high school ball.”
“The best and safest way to play football,” Brown said, “is to play full speed or not at all. A young man who plays timid is more likely to get hurt. We teach the right way to tackle and give and take hits too.” Summing it up, Coach Brown makes a simple statement that underlies his philosophy of teaching and coaching, “I guess life is a lot like football, play full speed or not at all.”