Natalie Randolph has arrived. The camera crews, the masses of reporters and the sold out crowd said so. Believed to be the nation’s only female head coach of a boy’s varsity high school football team, Randolph led her Coolidge Colts in an attention-crazed debut Friday night against the Archbishop Carroll Lions that didn’t go quite as expected. Carroll used a three-score second half to wrestle the show away and down the Colts 28-0, handing Randolph the first professional loss of her brief career.

With cameras flashing her every move, Randolph tried her best to relax her players and focus them on the task at hand. But amid a circus-like atmosphere, Friday’s football game was anything but just that. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty petitioned for votes near the food line and the partisan crowd nearly tripled the usual 400 to 500 bystanders that normally accompany Colts home games. Afterwards, Randolph downplayed the overwhelming focus in stride.

“The only reason everybody is so excited about it is because I happen to have some different parts than other people,” Randolph told reporters in her postgame press conference.  “It’s always been about football and not the other stuff. Like I told the kids, we played a football game and we happened to lose. We’ll move on.”

Coolidge will move on to a home game next Friday against Friendly High School but the Colts will have to shore up a few things first; namely to correct an inconsistent offense and defense against the run. Led by freshman running back Jonathan Haden’s 94 rushing yards, the Lions scored three rushing touchdowns. Haden, the brother of former Friendly standout and current Cleveland Browns rookie Joe Haden, scored twice. Coolidge failed to score despite the flash of a 35-yard run by Keith Dickens on the Colts’ first possession of the game.

“I told the players, ‘you lost a football game. It’s only the first game of the season,’” Randolph said. “We need to improve a lot. My expectation is to do the best that we can. We got all the kinks out and we know what we have to do for next week. We’re young. We’ve got to stick to the fundamentals. We’re going to work, we’re going to look at the tape, find out what we missed, what we have to do, and we’re going to do it.”

Randolph, 30, follows Wanda Oates, who was hired as the head coach of the Ballou High School Knights football team in 1985 only to be relieved of her duties a day later after several complains from area coaches. Randolph however, is firmly entrenched in her position and may signal the start of things to come for other female coaches.

“You always want to be a trendsetter, you always want to push the envelope,” Fenty told reporters. “She deserves this opportunity.”

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO