Colville head football coach Randy Cornwell retires after 23 years

By: 
Taylor Newquist
Sports Editor

Colville football's head coach of 23 years, Randy Cornwell, announced his retirement today, after a career that built the Indians from the bottom of the Frontier League to perennial contenders and the 2018 1A State Champions.
He was never a stranger to success.
The Spokane native lived a life surrounded by football, quarterbacking Central Valley High School to an unbeaten season in 1973, before going under center for the University of Western Montana. After he graduated, Cornwell took a job as assistant football and head boys basketball coach in Ennis, Montana. He worked under Bob Cleverley and won two state titles.
Cornwell went on to Troy, Montana, for another eight years as assistant football and head boys basketball coach. While he was there, Troy won the state championship in 1991 with a future NFL player, Blaine McElmurry, on the roster. Then, he found himself in Colville — again as an assistant, but this time only for four years, when he was announced as the new head coach on March 19, 1997.
Colville wasn't like the places Cornwell had been previously. The Indians combined for a 12-21 record in his four years as an assistant. Then once he took over, there was another four year stretch with a combined 8-30 record.
“I remember telling people this was the worst football program I'd ever seen,” Cornwell said. “It took four years before we finally broke through and made a playoff.”
The Indians broke through in 2001 with a 6-4 record and the first state playoff appearance in school history. From there, they never looked back. Since 2001, Cornwell has led the Indians to a 141-60 record with 17 state playoff birth in 19 years. In 2018, he won his first state title as a head coach and the first since he'd left Montana decades earlier.
“We had to change an attitude and build a culture,” Cornwell said. “But once we got it going, it's been a great ride.”
“The experience of playing and coaching under other great coaches really prepared me to build a program. When you're the head guy it's a total investment, the buck stops with you.”
Cornwell credited his long time assistants a big reason Colville was able to maintain success over the past two decades.
“Most high school coaches aren't there very long,” he said. “I've had Bill Carpenter and Tom Bassett right by my side for 26 years.”
Cornwell had been considering retirement for several years, and said that his wife started to nudge him in that direction after the Indians lost to Royal in the 2014 1A State Championship. He said he used to think that he was never going to retire, but that the time was right, and now he plans on moving to move back to his home town of Spokane to spend more time with his grandchildren and take up coaching their youth teams. Still, that decision didn't come easy, as Cornwell said the program and the people in it are incredibly important to him.
“Outside of my family, it's been my greatest joy,” Cornwell said. “Incredibly rewarding. Watching kids grow into great adults, to see their kids and coach their kids … it's just rewarding. The whole level of pride around our kids and our football program.”
Cornwell wasn't sure about a successor to step in and immediately fill his role. He said that Greg Mace, may apply to the position from in-house. The school's administration may also open the position up to outside candidates.
Cornwell said that his last message to the team is simply going to be to keep it going.
“We have great kids here,” he said. “They know how to work hard, they have class, they know how to play this game and I'm just going to tell them to keep going.”
“Keep representing Colville High School as you always have — with class. You'll be tough competitors on the field, be tough to beat and do things right. I love these kids … love these kids. I'm going to be an Indian for life, tribe pride forever, so I expect them to do well.

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