Randolph was winning its regular-season games by wide margins when after four or five weeks the Cardinals allowed themselves to think they might be on a collision course with state playoff rival Tioga.
First-year coach Brent Brown said his team would meet at the end of games and ask, “ ‘Was that good enough to beat Tioga?’ That was driving this whole bunch and I’m sure it was driving Tioga too,” he said. The teams met in last year’s state semifinal.
Sure enough, Randolph beat Maple Grove in the Section VI Class D final, eliminated Red Jacket in the Far West Regionals and came face-to-face with the Tigers once again in the state semifinals. Not only did the Cardinals oust Tioga, 35-6, they took their game a step further, winning the Class D state title, 42-13, over Chester of Section IX.
The accolades have been pouring in ever since, the latest including Brown being named the winner of the 11th annual Buffalo Bills/NFL Coach of the Year in Western New York.
Brown downplayed his coaching role, saying retired coach Pat Slater left plenty of talent behind, and having been an assistant himself, he knew the value of his own in Nate Armella, Kevin Hind and Greg Sherlock.
“This group worked pretty well together, we picked up the slack,” Brown said. “Sometimes if a kid is going for a record or gets an award, it can tear a team apart. I’ve seen it happen. Not with this team, they’re so tight, they’re such good friends.”
The Coach of the Year was chosen among the previous Coach of the Week selections over an 11-week span. Eligible for the award were: Dennis Gilbert (St. Joe’s), Greg Bronson (Lockport), Tim Wade (East Aurora), Rob Currin (Alden), Tim Delany (South Park), Mike Fatta (Cheektowaga), Pat Cauley (Hamburg), Mike Mammoliti (Williamsville North), John Faller (Sweet Home), Brian Wilson (Depew) and Brown.
Serving on the Coach of the Year selection committee were: Dick Gallagher (WNY High School Sports), Mark Adair (publisher, Football Weekly), Ken Stoldt (Section VI Football Federation), Denny Lynch (Buffalo Bills), Kevin Kelleher (ADPRO Team Sports), Preston Teague (Buffalo Bills, non-voting) and The Buffalo News.
Large poll ends in tie
In what is a first in the 33-year history of The Buffalo News polls, there’s a tie for first place for the large school title.
Jamestown and Canisius, both postseason champions in their own leagues, finished with five first place votes split among the 10 voters for 95 points. Canisius was the defending poll champion.
Small school voters had a much easier time giving the nod to undefeated New York State Class D champion Randolph. The program’s only other poll championship was in 2005. Alden, small school champs the previous three years, finished fourth.
The Cardinals’ (13-0) state title was their fourth, putting them in a tie with Cal-Mum and Maine Endwell for the second-most titles. Aquinas has the most with six.
Through 10 weeks of voting, Canisius started the season as the No. 1 large school. They were replaced the next two weeks by St. Joe’s. Jamestown then grabbed the top spot for the next six weeks.
For the first two weeks of the season, Alden was No. 1 among small schools. Depew held the top for one week, before Alden regained the lead for the next five weeks.
Serving on the large school poll were: Adair (publisher, Football Weekly), Sean Bruso (Alden assistant), Gallagher (WNY High School Sports), Tom Langworthy (Jamestown), John Lewis (Connolly Cup), Brian Majej (official), John Rutkowski (official), Dean Santorio (Grand Island), Dennis Sarow (Connolly Cup) and Keith McShea (The News).
The small school pollsters were: Adair, Bruso, Gallagher, Sarow, Charlie Jufer (Wilson), Sibby Constantino (Trench Trophy), Angelo Sciandra (Cardinal O’Hara coach), Jay Sirianni (Southwestern coach), Ed Sciera (Trench Trophy), and McShea (The News).