Shawn Harrison, a former Highland Park High School (HPHS) football star in the late 1980s with assistant coaching experience in Highland Park and other NJ school districts, has returned to his alma mater as the football program’s new head coach. The Highland Park Board of Education in June approved Mr. Harrison for the position.
Highland Park Athletics Director Craig Girvan said he believes that the well-known and well-respected new head coach, who is a youth safety specialist, will help generate interest in the football squad. The team’s varsity campaign was cut short last year when the program was suspended after the season-opener, because of a shrinking roster.
Highland Park will play a full varsity schedule this year, opening the season on Sept. 6 at South Hunterdon.
Mr. Harrison, succeeding Derek Nobles, will be Highland Park’s third head coach in three years.
A program with a rich and storied tradition that dates back to the 1930s, Highland Park team which dates back to the1930s, in recent years has had a roster averaging 35 players, but in the past two years, it h as struggled to field a team, The Owls forfeited their 2017 opener to Bishop Ahr due to limited manpower and finished with a winless record (0-10) that season for their first time since 1937.
In 2016, a star-studded Highland Park team, featuring several outstanding four-year letter winners, won four of the Owls’ final five games as the team finished with a 6-4 record. The only loss in the second half of the year was a 42-35 setback to Spotswood in a game that determined the Blue Division championship.
Highland Park has groomed several outstanding college players, the most notable of whom is L.J. Smith, a 1997 graduate of the high school who went on to a successful NFL career including a Super Bowl appearance with the Philadelphia Eagles.
(Information from press reports including www.mycentraljersey.com)