September 3, 2014 10:37:45 AM
Randal Montgomery isn't accustomed to being on the wrong side of a 46-7 score.
Ten times in three years as head coach at Hazlehurst High School, Montgomery led the Indians to victories when they scored 46 or more points. Montgomery's teams parlayed that high-scoring success into three consecutive trips to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A state title game and a state championship (16-0 season) in 2012.
Montgomery's goal is to build the same kind of tradition at Columbus High. Unfortunately, six turnovers played a pivotal role in Columbus' season-opening 46-7 loss to Noxubee County on Friday night. The Falcons broke out to a 7-0 lead on a 77-yard touchdown run by Kylin Hill but fell victim to five fumbles and an interception that gave the Tigers (1-1) short fields and scoring chance after scoring chance.
"It has been a long time since I took one on the chin like that," Montgomery said. "I know if I keep coaching this game long enough there are going to be other times when we take them on the chin like that. But the thing you try to get the kids to understand is that it doesn't have to be that way. A direct result of some of the things that happened Friday night was the result of some of the things we did."
Montgomery doesn't want the memory of the loss to linger over the program as it prepares to take on Lowndes County rival New Hope at 7 p.m. Friday. But he also knows it will be important for his players to realize they have to get better from their first effort, which is why he took to repeating the score -- 46-7, 46-7, 46-7 -- to his players Monday as they kicked off another week.
"The kids probably got tired of me saying 46-7," Montgomery said. "Everything we did (Monday) was 46-7. If that is not enough to gather your focus and gain your attention, I don't know what is. (Monday) was a day for us to get better and to talk to the kids about how important it is to focus because a few of those turnovers were really unforced because of our lack of focus, and not taking care of the little things we talk so much about."
Montgomery said he highlighted the importance of preparation and paying attention to details, like ball security, to the Falcons on Monday. He said he would have liked to have seen how the game would have played out if his team hadn't been so generous in their opener.
"I am kind of shocked because every day we work in practice on ball security with our quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers," Montgomery said. "It is kind of shocking to me that we would do that sort of things because we put so much emphasis on ball security. ... I am just going to chalk it up to a lack of focus and maybe some first-game jitters. Hopefully in the second game of the year we will be better."
While Montgomery and the Falcons lost their debut, Kris Pickle won his first game as head coach at New Hope in a 35-8 victory at Aberdeen. Montgomery hopes his players will be able to get past the mistakes they made against Noxubee County and deliver a more focused effort against a Trojans team that didn't commit a turnover against the Bulldogs. He hopes by harping on the final score of his team's opener that his players will have the attention to detail to help put the Falcons on the right side of the final score.
"We are trying to get them past the thought that when something bad happens it is over with," Montgomery said. "But, in a sense, we also don't want them to forget, just right now, this is what can happen to you if you don't do the little things and take care of the football.
"We talked about it (Monday), and we talked after the game about some things we could have done better. Hopefully we got those things ironed out, and I think we will be a little more ready to play come Friday night."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.