Gorman: Randall shows heart for Woodland Hills
Harry Randall had a hitch in his giddyap but broke into the clear along the Woodland Hills sideline with only one man to beat.
Just when the Seneca Valley defender got within reach, Randall pulled away to finish a 54-yard touchdown run.
What was remarkable was not that Randall did it in the WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals but that he has been doing it all season.
Randall is nine months removed from a second surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee, the injury that cost him half of his junior season, when Woodland Hills reached the WPIAL final.
After undergoing ACL reconstruction with cadaver donor tissue his freshman year, he needed one surgery to clean out the knee and then had a revision with his kneecap tendon Jan. 28.
The 6-foot, 190-pound senior wasn't cleared for contact until the week before the season — only seven months after the surgery — yet has been the Wolverines' starting quarterback and catalyst.
“He has the heart of a lion,” Woodland Hills coach George Novak said. “He's a very competitive player. He's a strong, physical player. He has a great arm and can throw the ball well. He can run it. That's always a big threat. He can do so much back there, and people have to prepare for him.”
Where he was watching the Wolverines last season, Randall became their leader.
“The type of person I am,” Randall said, “it made me fight harder.”
It's a mentality embedded in his family. His older brother, Rontez Miles, left a scholarship at Kent State, sat out two football seasons and became a Division II All-American safety at California (Pa.).
Miles became the 12th Woodland Hills product to play in the NFL when the New York Jets signed him off their practice squad last week.
The move provided an emotional boost for Randall before the beginning of the playoffs.
“I knew my brother was going to make it all along,” Randall said. “We're both athletes. Like my mom says, ‘We don't make loaves of bread. We make thoroughbreds.'
“I endured that (injury) because I feel like if I fight, I can be one of those players one day. Everyone who comes through here has a great chance of playing in the NFL.”
Miles calls Randall “the best athlete in our family, at his age and where he's at right now.”
That's saying something, given that Miles is playing in the NFL and counts former Pitt defensive tackle Tyre Young as a cousin.
“We've been through a lot of stuff, the environment we come from. At the time, you don't look at it as being hard. It's just another thing,” Miles said. “It shows how strong he is. You don't know how strong he is mentally and physically. He puts it behind him.”
Miles recalled Randall playing youth football with a broken wrist, carrying the ball with his healthy hand. He also remembers Harry playing tackle with Miles' teenage friends when he was only 7.
“After awhile, he started making us look bad, so I told people, ‘Don't be afraid to tackle him,' ” Miles said. “He had some rough times, but that just made him tougher.”
Randall displayed that toughness Friday night after Seneca Valley took a 7-6 fourth-quarter lead. He threw an interception, but when the Raiders fumbled, Randall received his chance for redemption.
“I've learned along the way that you want to have your best athlete get the ball a lot, and he's our best athlete,” Novak said. “Having him at quarterback, any play he can do something with it.”
Randall ran 22 yards to midfield, then 31 yards to the Seneca Valley 3. On fourth-and-goal at the 2, he took a shotgun snap, faked a handoff and did a hop, skip and jump to squeeze into the end zone.
Then he scored the 2-point conversion for a 14-7 lead with 7:57 remaining in Woodland Hills' 28-7 victory.
“As long as I stay healthy and the team fights for everything we practice for,” Randall said, “we'll be good.”
The Wolverines just have to follow their leader, who is proving to be a tough act to follow.