When Randal Montgomery arrived at Southern Miss, becoming a coach was not his goal.
“I was actually a broadcast journalism major,” Montgomery said. “During my sophomore year, I decided to change my major to English and become a coach and teacher.”
Looking back, it wasn’t a bad move.
Montgomery and the Indians (14-1) will vie for their second straight MHSAA Class 3A championship against Louisville on Saturday at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
It’s the third straight trip to Jackson for Montgomery, in his third year at Hazlehurst.
Montgomery’s first coaching job was at Canton, where he spent three years coaching every position short of linebackers and the offensive line.
He followed that with four years as an assistant football and head power lifting coach at Velma Jackson.
“It gave me a broader knowledge of the game,” he said. “I’m still learning everyday, though, what it takes to be a great head coach.”
When Montgomery accepted the job at Hazlehurst in 2011, he wanted to make a few changes. To be the “South Panola of Class 3A,” like he said the Indians wanted to be, it was necessary.
The first thing to go?
The Indians’ outdated wing-T offense. He installed a spread attack, and the transition paid off.
Hazlehurst fell to Charleston in the 2011 title game, only to win their second championship in school history the following season against the Tigers.
“What is great is the kids bought into the system real quick,” Montgomery said.
Out of the three teams he has guided to the state championship game, Montgomery says this year’s team is the most memorable.
“This group is special because nobody expected us to get where we are based on what we lost off of last years team,” he said. “But people don’t realize is that we were a junior-heavy team last year.”
The Indians’ lone hiccup this season came in Week 5, when it fell against reigning 2A champ Bassfield 21-20.
Since then, Hazlehurst has rolled off 10 straight victories to cruise into Saturday’s game against the Wildcats.
“Louisville is a great passing team, very explosive and make big plays that break your back,” Montgomery said. “We have to grind, and just do what got us to this point.”
That’s listening to Montgomery.