Natalie Randolph gets shut out in debut as Coolidge falls to Carroll, 28-0

Coolidge High School fans supported Natalie Randolph's head coaching debut Friday night in a 28-0 home opener loss against Carroll.
By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 28, 2010; 1:06 AM

Cameras followed Natalie Randolph as she emerged from a long tunnel leading from Coolidge's locker room onto the football field. A boom microphone hovered over her head as she coached her first game for the Colts. A news conference followed with more than two dozen media members asking her what it meant and how it felt for a woman to lead a Washington-area football team for the first time.

Meantime, there was another sparkling debut on the other sideline. Carroll freshman running back Jonathan Haden - the youngest of five brothers, four of whom have excelled at football - rushed for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the Lions to a 28-0 victory before an estimated 3,500 at Coolidge, spoiling Randolph's ballyhooed entrance into the coaching profession.

While Haden's play on the field was the most captivating, eyes were fixed on the home team's sideline, curious at how Randolph would approach a regular season game. The reality - she approached it just like any coach would. She was her typical mild-mannered self, dressed in a bright white T-shirt and fresh-pressed khaki shorts matching the rest of her staff.

When the public address announcer bellowed moments before kickoff, "The Natalie Randolph regime has begun," the star in the spotlight didn't break stride, speaking into her headset, peering at the play sheet clutched in her left hand.

"This is not normal," Randolph said afterward, explaining the uniqueness of the game's coverage and anticipation, "but it's the reality of the situation. You have to deal with it.

"You have to keep it in perspective. It's just a football game. . . . I told them to ignore it and play football."

When asked afterward how the game differed from those when she was an assistant coach at H.D. Woodson three years ago, Randolph wryly retorted, "All of y'all," referring to the reporters surrounding her. "That's the only difference."

Fans began arriving more than two hours before kickoff - even before Carroll's bus pulled into the Coolidge parking lot. But when Haden stepped off the bus, and saw the media throng, and the bleachers that eventually filled to near-capacity by the end of the first quarter, he wasn't the slightest bit fazed.

"I know what hype is," Haden said, recalling when he watched his oldest brother, Joe, an All-Met at Friendly who went on to play for Florida in the 2009 BCS National Championship Game at Dolphins Stadium in Miami. "I was sitting five rows back for the national championship game. That's hype."

The hype Friday was centered around Coolidge, which moved the ball early but was unable to get on the scoreboard. After Keith Dickens broke free for a 35-yard run on the game's first play from scrimmage, Carroll eventually stopped Coolidge at the Lions 3-yard line.

Coolidge's second drive ended on an interception by junior Duane Thompson at the Carroll 13. The Lions put together a seven-play drive, capped by Haden scoring from 16 yards out on an inside handoff. Cutting from left to right, he hit the hole fast and reached the end zone untouched.

Coolidge senior quarterback Chris Strong was one of many players to go down with severe cramping (Strong's affected his left calf), which took him out of the game early in the second quarter and the Colts' offense could not adjust without him.

Carroll, meantime, took a 13-0 lead on the opening drive of the second half, when Thompson scored on a 29-yard run. The Lions added another score with three minutes left in the quarter when E.J. Norris sacked Coolidge's Jayme Hutchins, forcing a fumble. Tre-Hall Gibbons scooped up the ball at the 5 and ran it in. The two-point conversion made it 21-0.

Haden closed out the scoring midway through the fourth quarter on a 24-yard run.

Officially: The lead official for the game was Toni Morgan, who works many District games, and also refereed some of Randolph's games when she played for the D.C. Divas.

Finally: Wanda Oates, who was appointed Ballou's football coach in 1985, only to have the job taken away from her 24 hours later due to pressure from other coaches, sat in the bleachers. "It's too bad that it took 25 years after what I went through, but I'm happy to be here and see Natalie leading them."

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