By Scott Kindberg
RANDOLPH - Every Sunday last fall, Randolph football coach Brent Brown could expect a phone call, one that would ultimately involve a conversation about his game that weekend.
At top, Randolph football coach Brent Brown, second from right, and his assistants celebrate the Cardinals’ victory in the state Class D championship game last November. For its effort, the team received rings in March (above).
P-J photos by Jay Young (top)?and Scott Kindberg (above)
Even from more than a thousand miles away, Pat Slater - the Cardinals' legendary former mentor who now lives in Florida - couldn't wait to ''talk shop'' with the man who succeeded him.
''He loved it,'' Brown said. ''How could he not? He knows what it's like.''
Yes, most of New York State does, too.
For as practice for the upcoming high school season begins for all state high schools today, the Cardinals do so as the reigning two-time Class D champions.
''I'll talk to them about the success of the last couple years, obviously, and remind them that it doesn't happen by accident,'' said Brown, who directed Randolph to a 13-0 record, including a 42-13 victory over Chester in the state title game in his first season as head coach. ''I'll remind them that it takes a lot of work.
''Look at the team last year. We had athleticism, size and speed, but don't take away from that bunch the fact they worked their butts off from Day One all the way to the end. You have to do that.''
In Randolph, there hasn't been a need to offer that reminder very often. Slater instilled that work ethic years ago and is has carried on under Brown. Since 2005, the Cardinals have captured four state Class D championships and there's plenty of hardware in the school's trophy case to confirm those title runs.
''The recent ones you remember,'' Brown said, ''but when you look back, you also remember the kids, the games and stuff like that. It's neat and it's fun, and it always goes back to Friday nights against Maple Grove (now Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake). Those games always seem to be some of the best ones, even when we've been on the losing end of it. We've had some good games. That helps build your program. That rivalry, I think, has helped both (programs), without question.''
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Randolph defeated Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake in last season's Section 6 Class D championship game. The Cardinals also knocked off Red Jacket in the Far West Regional and Tioga in the state semifinal before routing Chester for the state crown.
Randolph will meet Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake in the season opener, although the Thunderdragons have moved up to Class C this year.
''They're going to be loaded,'' Brown said.
The Cardinals, behind a stalwart offensive line that includes returnees Michael Bowers, Jeff Andrews and Wesley Senn, should be very good, too. All told, Brown has five returning starters on offense and seven on defense. Four who graduated - Cody Oldro, Chris Doubek, Lucas Brown and Nick Hettenbaugh - combined for 350 tackles a year ago.
''That's tough to replace right there,'' Brown said. ''There's a lot of experience with that group.''
Still the Cardinals are the team to beat again in Class D, which also includes Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Frewsburg, Panama, Portville, Pine Valley, Franklinville/Ellicottville/West Valley, Westfield/Brocton and Sherman/Clymer.
''It just seemed like (2013) got over,'' Brown said. ''I look forward to it. The rest of the team does, too.''