HEADING INTO RANDLE HIGH’S INAUGURAL YEAR OF VARSITY FOOTBALL THIS SEASON, HEAD COACH BRIAN RANDLE, WHOSE FATHER THE SCHOOL IS NAMED AFTER, HAS AN IDEA OF WHAT TO EXPECT ON THE FIELD.
“We have kids who will make you miss in space,” Randle said. “We’re going to get them the ball in space and let them do what they do.”
It’s off the field, particularly in establishing culture and leadership, where Randle is mired in the unknown.
“It’s been extremely exciting, but it’s also been very difficult,” Randle said. “You’re building a culture; you’re doing something that hasn’t been done before. And you’re still dealing with a lot of immature kiddos, so you have a lack of leadership in the locker room and on the campus. They’re really good kids. It’s a real family atmosphere. But it’s on us as coaches to find those leaders.”
It’s happening, step by step. Day by day.
So far, junior quarterback Leo Garza, junior defensive end Mike Blake, junior defensive end Curtis John Miller and junior running back/linebacker Jered Sherman have ingrained themselves as prominent voices in the locker room.
Randle wants more. During the week, the Lions have a routine where coaches and kids assume leadership roles.
On Mondays, players huddle after practice around Randle. Tuesdays, they’re with the coordinators. Wednesdays, they’re with their respective position coaches. And on Thursdays, meetings after practice are player-led, with position coaches picking a player to lead each week.
“We pride ourselves on trying to grow productive citizens,” Randle said. “That means learning how to talk in front of people. Once we get kids to understand the importance of leadership and understand they’re not hurting each other’s feelings and it’s OK to hold each other accountable, then we’ll be fine.”
“Initially, I felt I had to work harder because Coach Randle was constantly reprimanding me,” sophomore defensive lineman Eric Strickland Jr. said. “But as the season progressed, I understood he was developing me as a leader for the program.”
The Lions went 8-2 last season as a team of all-sophomores playing a junior varsity schedule. One of their landmark wins was against Katy High’s sophomore team, when the Lions rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit.
Randle was most impressed with his team’s relentlessness last season. Players never quit or hung their heads.
Confidence blossomed with each win.
“I think we proved to everyone that we will be the best team in Lamar (Consolidated) ISD, and we’ve just got to keep that same mentality going into this season,” junior receiver/cornerback Cortney Brown Jr. said.
Randle’s primary task, other than cultivating leadership, has been working the program’s numbers.
Currently, the Lions have 225 student-athletes in the football program. Randle High has an enrollment of about 900.
Ideally, Randle would like 350-400 kids in his program.
Over the last year, each Lions coach cold-called 30 kids to recruit to play football. The program’s numbers grew by 10-15 percent with the number of kids joining who had never played football.
Sophomore left guard Chris Taylor, for instance, never played football before last season. Now he’s the Lions’ best offensive lineman.
“We’re selling a good time,” said the seventh year head coach. “We’re selling the game of life. Football, to me, is the ultimate team sport. It takes everybody and builds so much character. That’s what we sell. We also sell being bigger and stronger because we lift weights.
“I think the big thing is getting kids involved and showing up and being involved in something,” he added. “In a small school like this, we need everybody to be involved. The more people involved in UIL activities, the better the campus is. You can’t be a taker. If you’re in school, you need to be a part of something.”
This season, the Lions will start three freshmen, 12-13 sophomores and the rest juniors. “I think everyone will have that nervous feeling before our first game,” Brown said of the historic Aug. 26 showdown against Pasadena Memorial. “I’m excited to go out and show everyone what we can do, no matter the level.”
There will be no resting on the laurels of moral victories.
“If wins and losses didn’t matter, we wouldn’t take score, right? So, we plan on winning,” Randle said. “We plan on being successful. I like flying under the radar. Keep grinding, people don’t see us coming and then punch them in the mouth. We are going to be a good football team. We’re just young. But we need to have the mindset that this is varsity ball. We’ve got to come to play.”