Randal Montgomery, left, talks with Jaelen Craddieth during a break in the action in the Columbus High School football team’s game against Shannon on Aug. 11 at the New Hope Jamboree at Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium. Montgomery said he was fired Tuesday as football coach at Columbus High. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch Buy this photo.
November 8, 2017 9:56:59 AM
Columbus High School defensive end Josh Gray always knew where he stood with coach Randal Montgomery.
"Coach Montgomery was one man who was going to beat you down to have you grow into something great," said Gray, a senior captain on this year's team. "He pushed you way past what you thought you were capable of. He always knew you had a little more inside you."
Montgomery told The Dispatch on Tuesday that he was fired as the school's football coach by the Columbus Municipal School District. Montgomery was 20-26 in four seasons as coach of the Falcons.
"It really makes me wonder what Columbus is doing," East Central Community College sophomore tight end Christopher Deloach, who played for Montgomery at Columbus in 2014 and 2015. "Any time the school gets someone good, they run them off. It happened in basketball (Luther Riley didn't return after winning the school's only basketball state championship in 2016) and in baseball (Jeff Cook left after a 23-win season in 2014).
"Now it is happening in football. You won't find a better coach. Even though this year wasn't good, he was making Columbus football matter."
Columbus finished 8-4 in 2015 and 6-6 in 2016. Each of those squads lost in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A playoffs. The Falcons slipped to 2-9 this season, including a six-game losing streak to end the season.
"We didn't win as many as we should have, but that wasn't on the coaches," Columbus senior wide receiver Kenneth Martin said. "Coach Montgomery pushed you hard every day in practice. He pushed me really hard, but he did that because he saw something in me that nobody else did.
"It was great playing for him. Not every day was easy, but he always wanted your best. There is nothing wrong with a coach wanting your best."
Columbus averaged 12.3 points per game. The Falcons were held to a touchdown or less six times. Still many felt the program was headed in the right direction. A record ninth-grade class is expected to step up and make an impact next season on the varsity level.
After graduating 21 seniors in 2016, the Falcons only had a 60 players this season.
"The team always played hard," Deloach said. "You could see they had some talented players. They were just young. It's hard to win in 6A ball with a bunch of 10th-graders. You have to let it build. They never quit. They played hard and represented the last couple of teams well."
C.J. Gholar won 17 games in three seasons as a starting quarterback. In his senior season, Gholar threw for 1,752 yards with 13 touchdowns. This season, Gholar has played at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba.
"A major influence on my football career," Gholar said. "Instead of looking at my limitations, he found ways to made me better. A lot of patience and a lot of trust. It was great, helping Columbus do things that had not been done before. Other teams knew they were in for a battle when we came to town. We took a lot of pride in that."
On this season's team, the bulk of returning experience was on the defense. A mid-season injury to junior quarterback Laterius Stowers complicated matters. Still, the Falcons kept showing up and kept working hard for the better days that might lie ahead.
"Coach always expected the best out of every position on the field," Gray said. "When I look back on all the years I played for him, it's been a challenge. However, he instilled in me that drive to give it my all when I hit the field on game days."
Deloach said the success he was a part of as a senior in football and basketball went hand in hand.
"Sometimes, things need to be left alone to grow," Deloach said. "You have to let the coaches coach. It has to become their program. It's frustrating because the athletes are there."
Martin looks back fondly on his experience in the purple and gold. Two seasons of success helps take the sting off this season.
"We never could put things together," Martin said. "The last couple of years, Kylin (Hill) made up for some deficiencies. This year, we couldn't find that go-to player. If nothing else, we played with pride. It's sad that it had to end up this way."
The Columbus football will have a fourth coach in 11 seasons. The boys basketball program is starting its fourth-straight year with a new coach.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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