SYRACUSE – Randolph coach Pat Slater went out with a big smile, a few tears and his third state championship.
The 33-year Randolph football coach announced his retirement from a special career on Friday afternoon, in the joyous moments after a special performance by his team. The Cardinals dominated early and late as they beat Tuckahoe, 28-7, in the Class D state championship game in front of about 3,000 at the Carrier Dome.
“That’s the best way to go,” Slater said of his final game. “ I’ve been thinking about it, and every time we won every week, these last four weeks, I said ‘You know, it’s getting closer, it’s getting closer. … This is the best. I have great kids. The kids played hard. … ”
At that point during his postgame interview, Slater had to pause to collect his emotions, ones that had spilled over on the field with a few tears just moments before.
“He means everything to us,” junior lineman Cody Oldro said. “We love him like he’s our own dad. He takes care of us. He works us hard every day, and we thank him for it every single day.”
Said Jordan Dowiasz: “He comes to practice, and he just has a positive attitude. He is on our butts all the time, but he does it in a laid-back kind of way. If you do things full-speed, he’ll be more than happy to joke around with you. But he’s serious when he needs to be. And that’s why we all love him.”
The championship is the third for Randolph (11-2), which also won in 2005 and 2009.
“We’ve talked about [his retiring], but this isn’t about coaches, this isn’t about me,” said Slater, who finishes his career 213-99-4. “This whole season is about the kids, and what they do. They just kept getting better and better and better and better and building. And that’s what you’re after. And when kids started doing that, it just makes it great.”
Slater said he is stepping away to spend time with children in Louisiana and Seattle, where he also has a grandchild. If any grandchildren someday ask him about how he finished his coaching career with a state championship, his story will begin with a young team that started 1-2.
Late in a Week Three loss to Maple Grove (which Randolph would beat, 21-0, in the Section VI final), Slater moved Oldro from fullback to the offensive line. The Cardinals would go on to push around opponents from that point on.
On Friday, Oldro was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. The 6-foot-3 junior had six solo tackles on defense and helped the offensive line pave the way for another excellent Randolph rushing performance.
The Cardinals took a 14-0 first quarter lead on a 39-yard touchdown run by Chris Doubek and a 43-yard run by Dowiasz, which was followed by a two-point conversion option run by junior quarterback Mitch Maycock. Maycock hit 2 of his 3 passes for 39 yards, and he made wise decisions in the option, including pitches good for Dowiasz gains.
Dowiasz ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries while Doubek ran for 101 yards and a touchdown on 112 carries.
“Like we talked in the locker room, we came out and played our game,” Dowiasz said. “Just hit them hard, just run hard, hit our blocks, be disciplined and come out and play a great game.”
Westchester County’s Tuckahoe (8-3-1), the winner of Section I and itself a state champion twice in the last seven years (2006 and 2010), seized upon one of Randolph’s few errors to get back into the game in the second quarter.
A fumble led to a short field and a 4-yard run by Nick Reisman with 10:08 left in the second quarter.
Randolph held Tuckahoe scoreless the rest of the way. Contributors like junior defensive back Nick Hettenbaugh (11 tackles and a pass breakup) and junior defensive back Lucas Brown (six tackles) prevented quarterback Shyheim Nixon (11-84 rushing, 3-13 passing for 30 yards) from breaking too many big gains for Tuckahoe.
Randolph added two touchdown runs in the fourth as Dowiasz went in from 2 yards out on the first play of the quarter and junior Jared Pitchford scored on a 6-yarder with 6:22 to play.
“As soon as that fourth quarter came, and we chewed up a lot of time, I can’t even describe how good it felt,” Dowiasz said. “Tears started coming to my eyes. It just felt great to be a state champion.”
With Maple Grove having won the state title in 2008, Section VI has now won four of the last eight Class D championships as well as three of the last five.
It is also Section VI’s 10th title in the last five seasons (22 have been played over that time). Orchard Park will play New Rochelle for the Class AA championship today at 6 p.m. at the Dome, the last game in a tripleheader that begins with the C (noon) and B (3 p.m.) finals.