Columbus High School’s Jordan Randle pursues Noxubee County High wide receiver Rashad Eades in a game earlier this season. Randle has been a consistent contributor on defense for the Falcons. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch
October 12, 2017 10:09:30 AM
When Columbus High School senior Jordan Randle left New Hope High and joined his new team during the summer, he was ready for the challenges of learning new teammates, new coaches, and new plays.
Randle never envisioned learning a new position.
"At the Mississippi State camp, they moved me to safety," Randle said. "(The Columbus coaches) asked if I could learn that position and wouldn't mind playing it. I took that request to heart. I determined then I wanted to be the best safety in the state."
The 5-foot-10, 160-pound Randle has taken that positive, upbeat attitude to the field every Friday night. He is a big reason why Columbus has a playoff pulse remaining with four weeks left in the regular season.
Columbus (2-5, 1-2 region) will try to keep that pulse alive at 7 p.m. Friday when it plays at Southaven (3-4, 2-1) in another Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A, Region 1 game.
Columbus will need to win three of the final four games to qualify for the postseason for a third-straight year.
"The coaches have done a great job the entire season staying positive," Randle said. "At the beginning of the year, they said the last four games of the season would determine the playoffs. Even though we have had some tough losses, this team has always believed and always worked hard.
"A lot of credit goes to the coaches for that. Even though, we are 2-5, they stay on us like we are 7-0. We have been getting ready for this final set of games the entire season. We feel like we have a lot of fight left."
The Columbus defense has overcome many obstacles throughout the season. The Falcons have lost to four teams ranked in The Associated Press Top 10 -- West Point, Tupelo, Starkville, and Horn Lake. That quartet is a combined 27-1. The other loss was to Noxubee County.
For Randle, the opportunity to play on the state's biggest stage proved a strong motivation during those long summer workouts.
"Playing 6A ball has been a tremendous experience," Randle said. "This season, being on the field with teams like Starkville and Tupelo, it was a little overwhelming, but it was also exciting. You are out there competing against the best teams in the state. If that can't get you fired up, nothing can.
"The biggest thing the coaches have taught us is playing hard. Regardless of the score or the opponent, we have really competed. I am proud of that."
The past two weeks the defense has been pushed to the brink because the offense has played without junior quarterback Laterius Stowers, who has been out with a slight shoulder separation. Stowers is expected to play Friday.
Columbus has combined for 177 yards in those two games -- losses to Tupelo and Horn Lake. The defense has had to pick up the slack and has tried to keep games close while playing an abnormal number of snaps.
"The defense has shown up and given us a chance," Columbus fourth-year coach Randal Montgomery said. "Guys like Jordan have been a big part of that. We returned a little more experience on the defensive side of the ball and Jordan has fit in nicely with that group. He has become a leader in his first year on a unit without a lot of seniors."
Whether it is dancing during a timeout or getting the team riled up before taking the field, Randle has been a huge bundle of energy. Trying to get his teammates engaged has been his primary goal.
"Football is my life," Randle said. "I dream of playing in the (NFL) one day. You have to play this game with passion, but you also have to have fun with it. If you aren't enjoying your time on the field, you aren't going to play well. I try to keep the team upbeat in practice, in the locker room.
"Football has its time when it needs to be serious. It also has a time to be fun."
Randle has found his biggest enjoyment returning kicks. He is determined to run a kickoff back this season. Against Tupelo, Randle stood on the 1-yard line and tried to bat the ball back into play (before it would become a touchback) so he would have another kickoff opportunity.
A 55-yard kickoff return helped change the momentum in an overtime victory against DeSoto Central. The best chance for a kick return came last week when a safety forced Horn Lake to free kick from its 20-yard line.
Randle brought that return back 40 yards before being caught from behind.
"I thought that was the one," Randle said. "Really can't believe I was caught from behind. Didn't think that was even possible."
The recent offensive struggles have caused Montgomery to dig deeper into the playbook. Randle has carried on a reverse in each of the last two games. The average yards per carry after those two runs is a team-best 7.5 yards.
"I have begged to get some offensive touches all year," Randle said. "They asked me to play safety. I asked to touch the football on offense. It sounds fair to me."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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