Rice will not return as football coach at Columbus High School

 

Eric Rice

Eric Rice

 

Scott Walters

 

 

For the second straight off-season, Columbus High School is in the market for a new football coach. 

 

The Mississippi High School Activities Association web site listed a Columbus Municipal School District advertisement for a new head football coach Thursday afternoon. 

 

The advertisement also includes a position for assistant football coach on the high school level, as well as a head coach for girls' soccer. 

 

Eric Rice just completed his first season as coach of the Falcons. However, speculation was rampant when the season ended that Rice would not be retained after the team finished winless and he did not coach the final game of the regular season. 

 

Calls to Rice and other school district officials were not returned Thursday night. 

 

"The kids have always given a great effort," said Rice in a November interview after it was announced by the MHSAA that Columbus would be moving from Class 6A to Class 5A. "We have a plan and it starts at the junior high level. We have to get the numbers up in the program to be successful. Playing 5A competition will help. It will be a more even playing field." 

 

This past season was the Falcons' second winless season in program history. 

 

Of the 11 defeats, three were by shutout. Columbus was held to one touchdown or less seven times. 

 

Randal Montgomery coached Columbus for four seasons before not returning after the 2017 campaign. Montgomery was 2-9 in his final season after leading the Falcons to back-to-back MHSAA Class 6A playoff berths.  

 

Thanks in part to the play of present Mississippi State sophomore Kylin Hill, the Falcons finished 8-4 in 2015 and 6-6 in 2016, losing first-round playoff games in each season. 

 

After Hill's departure, Columbus slumped to 2-9 in an injury-plagued final season under Montgomery. Overall, the Falcons have lost 17 straight, dating back to an overtime region win over DeSoto Central on Sept. 22, 2017. 

 

Prior to Montgomery, Columbus won seven games two times under Tony Stanford but only made the playoffs one time. 

 

High hopes for 2018 season took a hit when defensive coordinator Michael Kelly left Columbus to become the head coach at Caledonia High School in June. Three CHS assistants also went with Kelly. 

 

Thus, Rice had to shuffle the coaching staff during summer workouts, after being hired himself a couple of weeks before spring practice. 

 

Columbus will return rising senior Devarkas Ramsey at running back, as well as the quarterback trio of rising seniors Jaelan Craddieth, Jordan Nash and rising junior Ethan Conner. 

 

The smallest Class 6A school in the previous enrollment figures, Columbus settles comfortably in Class 5A for the next two seasons. 

 

The 2019 Class 5A, Region 1 rivals include Center Hill, Grenada, Lafayette, Lake Cormorant, Saltillo, as well as traditional rivals West Point and New Hope. 

 

West Point and Columbus have played annually throughout this decade. The last Columbus-New Hope regular-season game was played in 2016 at New Hope. 

 

Follow Dispatch sports editor Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott

 

Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.

 

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