By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 2, 2010; 12:00 AM
Natalie Randolph wanted to relish her first victorious postgame handshake, but the Coolidge coach had to worry about one last opponent - that water bucket senior Driscoll Warner wanted to dump on her back.
She ran the down the 50-yard line toward the Anacostia sideline and avoided it, but then Indians Coach Terry Dixon stopped her to offer congratulations. That allowed George Weaver the moment he and his Coolidge teammates had waited six weeks for - a chance to douse their coach in honor of her first victory, a 48-12 home triumph over the winless Indians (0-5).
"It means everything to me," Randolph said. "What they get out of it, I get out of it. I'm ecstatic for them. They needed it."
As the first female football coach in the Washington area - and one of just a handful in the nation - Randolph attracted unprecedented media attention, and it wore on the team as it lost its first five games.
On Friday, the Colts pulled away in the second half, allowing the excitement to build and build with each touchdown. Senior running back Chris Strong ran for four scores.
"We've got such great will power on this team," said junior Femi Bamiro, who made his first start at quarterback and threw two touchdown passes. "I'm so happy for Coach Randolph because she's been working so hard for this."
After Keith Dickens returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown to close out the scoring with seven minutes to play, sophomore Cornelius Anderson found senior captain Daniel West on the sideline, gave him a quick embrace and said, "It's our time to shine. Finally."
The game-night atmosphere at Coolidge has changed dramatically since Randolph debut's Aug. 27 against Carroll, when an estimated 3,500 filled the bleachers and more than two dozen media members covered the game, necessitating a post-game press conference in field's north end zone.
The scene on Friday was a startling contrast. There were about three dozen spectators at kickoff, and about 200 by the final whistle. The Post was the only media outlet there at the start.
"All that hoopla was ridiculous," Randolph said. "That's the only benefit of losing is that nobody [in the media] cares. Everyone's gone away."
Amid all the attention paid to their program last spring and summer, Randolph and her staff were careful when talking about the expectations for their team - both publicly and privately. With a complete change in staff, and several players stepping into leading roles for the first time, they didn't know what was in store on the field.
The one thing Randolph and her staff could control, though, was preparation. She touted her and her staff's ability to ready their players for every conceivable situation.
But the one circumstance for which no coach or player ever wants to be ready for is motivating a winless team at midseason.
"We're in a world that's all about winning," Coolidge assistant coach Torrance Dawkins said, "and you have so many outside critics on what should and shouldn't be. That's a lot of pressure on everyone here."
Randolph said: "I tried to take it one game at a time, but for anybody, 0-5 [stinks]."
And it was starting to affect the players, too.
"It's tough," Coolidge junior wide receiver Fellonte Misher said. "You keep losing and you don't know if it's your fault or the coaches' fault. After the games, it's the worst because everyone's pointing fingers."
Several players said the finger-pointing reached a crescendo after last week's 22-19 loss to Forestville. Not only did the Colts lead 19-6 late in the third quarter, but they allowed the Knights to drive 99 yards before scoring the clinching touchdown with 30 seconds left.
"I was so frustrated," sophomore running back Hassan Jenkins said, "I was just ready to cry."
But after Friday night, while some Coolidge eyes were moist with joy, Randolph was soaked - both with satisfaction and from that water bucket.