By Jay Young
After the Randolph Cardinals claimed the 2012 New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D football championship, Pat Slater stood just off the field at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse and announced that he was retiring.
In his first year as Randolph Central School’s varsity head football coach, former longtime assistant Brent Brown has guided the Cardinals to an unbeaten record and a No. 1 Class D state ranking heading into Friday’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship game at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
Randolph coach Brent Brown, seen talking with quarterback Mitchell Maycock, has been surrounded by a strong staff that includes Kevin Hind, Nate Armella, Jon Peterson, Greg Sherlock and Chad Slade.
After three state titles and 213 victories spanning 33 years, the longtime coach was hanging up his whistle for good.
For many high schools, finding a replacement for a legendary coach would be a difficult task.
For the Cardinals, well, they had just the guy waiting in the wings.
Along with a seasoned staff of assistant coaches, Brent Brown has continued the Cardinals' legacy of football dominance into 2013. A longtime Slater assistant, Brown has guided the Cardinals to 12 straight victories - extending their win streak overall to 22 - heading into Friday's championship game against No. 3 Chester of Section 9 (11-1). Kickoff is set for noon.
"I started out in the fall of 1990, so I was watching Pat during 22 of his years as head coach," Brown said Tuesday night. "There were always going to be some serious changes when he left, but we tried our best to make it seamless."
In addition to their 12 wins this season, the Cardinals, most importantly, still look like the dominant teams of years past, featuring size along the lines and explosiveness in the backfield.
Quarterback Mitchell Maycock may throw a deep spiral every now and again, but rushing from Chris Doubek and Lucas Brown remain the hallmarks of the team's offense. That's something that Slater would be proud of.
"Brent has been incredible," said assistant coach Kevin Hind. ''He is no stranger to winning and he puts in the most time of anyone."
Of course, a big reason Brown has been able to add to Randolph's storied history is the help he's received from his veteran assistant coaches.
Hind, Nate Armella and Jon Peterson - along with help from Greg Sherlock and Chad Slade from the junior varsity staff - have worked tirelessly to ensure that the Cardinals adhere to a winning formula that Slater demanded.
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"Our routine from Pat is pretty much set in stone even today," Hind said. "You don't change something that has been working for years, and our guys really benefit from that."
Every week Randolph prepares the same way they always have, with diligent work on the practice field and film reviews at the end of the week.
Hind started out as a head coach for the Cardinals jayvee squad, and has coached many varsity starters all the way through their careers.
"This group of guys is just so close," he said, "There are no MVPs and no stat leaders. It really is one for all with this team."
That mentality really shines through when you watch the Cardinals step onto the field, an attitude that can often be difficult to cultivate, but not for the Randolph Cardinal.
"After twelve games, these guys just get really good at their jobs,'' Brown said. ''Everyone has a special intensity when you get to this level," Brown said.
But nobody has gotten better at their job than Brown.
While under Slater, he was primarily responsible for coaching Randolph's defense. Now coordinating duties are being taken care of by Armella, but Brown still has a big hand in stopping opposing offenses.
''Obviously 'Brownie' oversees everything on the field, but defense is his game," Hind said.
That expertise has paid dividends all year long, and on Friday the Cardinals will field a unit that has given up just six points in the last two games.
But now Brown and the Cardinals will likely face their most difficult test of the year this Friday, when Randolph faces off against Chester quarterback Vinny Aloi, who threw for a state record-tying seven touchdowns in a 55-14 win over Moriah in last week semifinal.
"We're going to do what we've done all year, '' Brown said, ''play defense and, hopefully, let our guys get us a lead."
Whatever the outcome, Cardinals' fans can rest assured that the team is in good hands for the future.