‘The Best Way To Go Out’

Randolph Central School football coach Pat Slater stopped for a moment, pulled his son, Shane, and former player and assistant coach, Gerald Carlson, close and together the men posed for a photograph.

The Kodak moment presented itself after the Cardinals had dispatched of Tuckahoe of Section 1, 28-7, to claim the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D championship at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse the day after Thanksgiving.

Slater, who had been patrolling the sidelines for 34 seasons, had plenty to be thankful for after his final career game and his third state title.

“That’s the best way to go (out),” said Slater, who announced his retirement during his postgame press conference. “Every time we won, every week the last four weeks, I realized it’s getting closer, it’s getting closer.”

And even though he had privately made the decision to retire weeks before, Slater showed no signs of slowing down. In fact, the Cardinals only got better as the season went along. For after losing two of their first three games, Slater and his staff made some personnel changes and watched as the team ripped off 10 straight wins, capped by the convincing victory over Tuckahoe.

“We thought if we could win one (of their first three games) and get some experience with all these young kids, we could do OK,” Slater said. “In the third game in the second half (at Maple Grove), we played really good. From that point on, we just said, ‘OK, every game now is a playoff game from here on out,’ and the kids played like that all the way to the end.”

Slater finished his career with 213 victories and joins former Jamestown coach Wally Huckno as the only Section 6 coaches to lead three teams to state championships.

In his typical style, Slater downplayed his role, crediting, instead, his assistant coaches, who included Brent Brown, Carlson, Kevin Hind and Nate Armella. Two former players, Greg Sherlock and Lucas Burch also played important roles in the team’s success.

“All these guys step in and everybody works together, and that’s what it’s all about,” Slater said. “It’s not one person, believe me. Everybody has to pull their own weight and these guys all do.”

They learned from one of the best, so it should come as no surprise that Slater is The Post-Journal’s choice for 2012 football coach of the year.