Belgrade filled it final head coaching vacancy last week. Todd Randall has been hired to take over the helm of the girls soccer team following a search that spanned more than six months.

Randall served as the goalie coach for both the boys and girls programs the past two years.

“I’m grateful that somebody wanted to come in and take control,” Belgrade Activities Director Toby Robinson said. “He was an assistant coach and it took him a while to think about it and say, ‘Okay, I can do this.’ I’m glad, he was already in the program and the kids know him.”

Randall replaces Carl Bridwell, who stepped down in November after eight seasons with the program, including the past three as head coach. The Panthers went 5-30-5 during his tenure at the helm and finished 2-13-0 this past season.

“After eight years, not only have I felt like I’ve done my best, but now there’s a new chapter opening up in my life with my son,” Bridwell said in November. “And as all the parents know family’s important and that time (together). I didn’t want to lose that.”

Bridwell and his wife welcomed a son in the spring of 2021, which led to the decision to step away.

But finding his replacement proved difficult. Robinson said he was “dumbfounded” about the lack of applicants for the Class AA program.

“I tried getting the word out to the community,” he said. “Every teacher in the district got reminder emails. Did everything I could getting the word of mouth out and didn’t really have any applicants other than out of state and Todd.”

Belgrade was highly successful at the A level and won state titles in 2005 and 2007. Prior to moving up to AA in 2019, the Panthers had reached the state semifinals in two of the previous three years.

But the transition hasn’t been easy since moving up to the Montana High School Association’s highest level, and Belgrade has not won more than two matches in a season since joining AA.

Robinson feels that Randall will change the program’s fortunes.

“I think he can produce that (winning) culture that’s needed. Just like any other sport the culture shifts with a new coach and he’s definitely a guy who can do that,” he said. “It’s what he does for a living is coach. He does a lot of coaching and with all the coaching he does he’s got a lot of positive reviews and kids love the guy.

“I cant imagine anyone better who is going to turn this thing around. He’s definitely going to get buy-in and respect from the kids.”

Despite being a late hire — fall practices begin in just eight weeks — Robinson doesn’t feel the program is behind the eight ball.

“They’ve definitely been playing, and like I said, Todd just seamlessly just slides right into a different role but with the same program,” he said. “It’s not like it’s a new person they need to meet or anything like that. Nope, we’re not behind the ball at all.”

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