Natalie Randolph had taken off her headset and was trying to get her Coolidge team lined up for a postgame handshake as a cameraman got in the way. The second-year coach gave a look, as if to say, “Really?”
Randolph, one of the few women ever to coach a high school football team, made national headlines at the time of her hiring 20 months ago. She spent much of her first season with regular media attention. But the focus returned to football this season at Coolidge — until the Colts (8-3) made it to the Turkey Bowl.
Her team’s arrival in Thursday’s DCIAA football championship reignited the media circus.
However, despite taking an early lead and tying the score on Chuck Gaines’s 66-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter, the Colts were unable to finish things off, losing to Dunbar, 33-21, at Eastern High.
“That would have been big — first female coach, in the Turkey Bowl in her second year,” said Gaines, a senior defensive end. “Unfortunately, we didn’t do it. It’s okay, though. The past two years have been the greatest years in my life.”
Gaines said the Colts have grown accustomed to the stir created by having a female coach, but it was an odd scene afterward as a half-dozen television cameras circled Randolph and waited for her to speak, while Dunbar’s victorious players and coaches celebrated 30 yards away, largely ignored.
Randolph deflected questions about herself. Like any other coach, especially one in just her second season in charge of a team, she was excited for kickoff to come and the game to start.
“It’s a championship game, [so] you’re nervous, can’t wait, got jitters,” Randolph said after receiving a series of congratulatory hugs on the Colts’ season, including one from Mayor Vincent C. Gray. “It’s been a long season.”
Coolidge scored on the game’s opening possession, with quarterback Femi Bamiro throwing a 30-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Fellonte Misher. But the Colts’ offense did not score again until the final five minutes, by which point the outcome had been decided. Coolidge finished with five turnovers: three interceptions and two fumbles.
“They worked hard getting here,” Randolph said. “It’s a shame they couldn’t win it.”
At halftime, D.C. Public Schools honored Frazier O’Leary, Cardozo’s longtime baseball coach and English teacher, for his service at the Northwest Washington school since 1977.
He started at Cardozo 34 years ago and has served as an assistant coach for the football and boys’ and girls’ basketball teams and as head coach of the football, tennis, girls’ basketball and tennis teams. He was also athletic director from 1986 to 1989.
O’Leary, who also served as UDC’s head baseball coach from 1981 to 1984, was elected to the D.C. Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007. The Clerks fell to Wilson, 12-0, in June’s DCIAA baseball final.