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Rice approved as new football coach at Columbus High


From Special Reports



The Columbus Municipal School District board of trustees approved the hiring of Eric Rice as the new coach of the Columbus High football team Thursday night. 


According to the board agenda, Rice will receive a $25,000 coaching stipend. He also will teach in an undetermined position in the school district. Montgomery received a $30,000 coaching stipend. 


Rice appeared before the board of trustees Thursday night to introduce himself. He promised to focus on building character in his players. 


"I'm not one of those coaches that want to win at any cost," Rice said. "I want to win in life and win in the classroom. I want to win in the hallways. I want to win in how we walk onto the field and how we to off the field, how we shake the other team's hand. Those are things that are important to me." 


The board also approved funding for one-time work for Rice to prepare for the football season. That funding, which is $247.81 a day, is up to 30 days and is from today through June 30. Rice's hiring is effective July 1. 


According to MaxPreps, Rice went 7-4 as head coach at Benton County (Ashland/Hickory Flat) in Class 3A in 2016. Benton County lost to North Panola 48-22 in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 3A playoffs. It was the team's second-consecutive playoff appearance. The program started in 2011. 


Rice coached at Hickory Flat Attendance Center in 2017 after it opted to play as an independent and Ashland High fielded its own team and played in Class 1A, Region 1. According to MaxPreps, Hickory Flat went 0-5. 


Rice also coached tight ends and fullbacks for four years under Lance Pogue at perennial state power South Panola High. He also worked as a coach at Lafayette and North Panola high schools. 


Rice played tight end at Ole Miss from 2000-04. He earned four letters. Rice started appeared in all 11 games (seven starts) in 2004. He made six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. 


Rice played his first two prep football seasons at B.L. Moor High before transferring to Starkville High, where he played his final two seasons. He was selected to The Clarion-Ledger's Top 40 list. He also was named first-team All-Region in Class 5A, Region 1 and second-team All-State second team. He played wide receiver and linebacker at Starkville High, which went 9-4 in his senior season. Starkville lost to eventual Class 5A State champion Madison Central. 


Rice caught 25 passes for 414 yards and six touchdowns as a senior season. He also earned two letters in basketball and participated in track and field. 


Rice is from Starkville and is the nephew of former NFL All-Star and Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. 


Randal Montgomery served four seasons as head football coach at Columbus High. During his time with the Falcons, Montgomery compiled a 20-26 record. 


In a Nov. 7 interview with The Dispatch, Montgomery told the newspaper he was told he would not be retained by then-superintendent Dr. Philip Hickman. 


Members of the Columbus Municipal School District school board were shocked when they heard the news of a football change through the newspaper and local television. 


After his meeting with Hickman, Montgomery has continued to teach at the school with members of his coaching staff overseeing the offseason weight and conditioning program for the school. 


In January, Louisville High School announced Montgomery would join their football program as an offensive coordinator and head coach in waiting. He will replace M.C. Miller after the completion of the 2017 regular season. 


While at Columbus, Montgomery guided the Falcons to MHSAA Class 6A playoff berths in 2015 and 2016. It was the second time the Falcons made the playoff in back-to-back seasons. Neither squad won a playoff game. 


Thanks in large part to the play of running back Kylin Hill, who is now at Mississippi State, Columbus won eight games in 2015 and six games in 2016. Hill rushed for 4,000 yards in his four-year career. 


In 2017, Columbus finished 2-9 and 1-6 in Class 6A, Region 1 play. After beating DeSoto Central in its region opener, the Falcons lost their final six region games. 


The team struggled on offense after quarterback Laterius Stowers separated his shoulder in the second half of the victory against DeSoto Central. 


Based on this season's starting lineup in the final game of the season -- a 21-14 loss at Hernando -- Columbus would return seven starters on offense and six starters on defense for the 2018 season. 


Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters contributed to this report.



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