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GMC and Mid-State Convention soccer Camp Caravan tour of preseason scrimmages and practices
Greg Tufaro, @GregTufaro

He’s been approached when out for dinner and whereas caught at pink lights. Throughout Highland Park, folks have been stopping the Owls’ first-year soccer coach Shawn Harrison. That’s to not point out the social media shout-outs and telephone calls from alumni and coaches within the space.

Varsity soccer is again within the borough.

Final yr, Highland Park opted to play a jayvee schedule after starting the season with 19 gamers and struggling a 41-Zero loss within the opener. Now, Highland Park returns to the Better Middlesex Convention with a full Gold Division varsity slate. That features video games towards longtime rivals Metuchen and South River, contests which as soon as had standing-room solely crowds with championships and Thanksgiving glory at stake.

“Everyone’s been nice,” Harrison mentioned. “They want me good luck. Properly-wishes throughout the board and I really feel actually honored by that. They’re excited that we do have a varsity program and Highland Park child is definitely teaching on the helm, which is nice. So, thus far, it’s been nothing however optimistic. Every thing has been optimistic thus far which is nice for the group, for the varsity and for the group.”

Harrison has reasonable targets because the season approaches. He mentioned 32 children have signed on to play. At the least half are first-year gamers. Which means educating loads of fundamentals and easing into the playbook.

“To be able to construct it again up, you bought to ensure the inspiration is true,” he mentioned. “And that’s all I’m doing proper now. Ensuring that basis is robust so you may construct on high of it.”

Harrison’s a superb particular person to hold these soccer girders. He’s ingrained within the space and has long-standing ties to the maroon and white. In different phrases, he needs to be at Highland Park. For one, he performed for the Owls, as did Harrison’s three brothers and different relations.

Throughout his senior season in 1990, Harrison helped Highland Park seize a state championship in an undefeated marketing campaign. A yr later, he began teaching as an assistant at Highland Park and remained for over 20 years on the Owls sideline. For the previous two falls, he was an assistant on the Roselle workers earlier than his gridiron homecoming.

“It’s additionally a plus I’m from the group,” mentioned Harrison, who works as a youth security specialist at the highschool. “I do know loads of these children’ mother and father. I both A, went to highschool with them or I coached their mother and father years in the past after they performed soccer. So, it’s a win-win.”

Simply have a look at his workers. Harrison’s oldest nephew L.J. Smith helps as a volunteer assistant. Smith, as New Jersey followers know, performed at Rutgers and within the NFL for seven seasons. The tight finish caught a landing for the Philadelphia Eagles within the 2005 Tremendous Bowl. Equally as vital – he performed at Highland Park.

“The youngsters positively reply properly after they see somebody of that statue come round, assist out as a result of he’s considered one of them,” Harrison mentioned. “He was in the identical sneakers. It wasn’t that way back he was operating round in a Highland Park uniform as properly.”

Moreover, Harrison coached offensive coordinator Corey Carter and volunteer assistant Christian Smith. Additionally again is Highland Park icon Joe Policastro, who was the group’s quarterback within the late 1950s and the pinnacle coach from 1978-2006. Harrison famous that the teaching legend has notably helped with the small, behind-the-scenes issues.

Since there’s so many novice gamers, the entire workers is stressing off the sphere stuff corresponding to vitamin.

“It’s form of larger than soccer proper now,” Harrison mentioned. “We’re educating these children virtually a lifestyle, which is nice.”

That features dealing with adversity as soon as the whistle begins.

“I inform them this isn’t going to be simple in any approach, form or type,” he mentioned. “We’ll lose some, that’s a particular, however how do you reply from that loss? How do you get higher? How do you begin successful? You realize, it begins along with your mindset and all the pieces else will comply with.”

Harrison doesn’t should look far for motivation. His brother Raymond starred within the mid-1970s at Highland Park and brothers Terry and Tyrone had their flip within the 1980s.

Tyrone went on to play for Ohio State and gave again as a vice principal at New Brunswick Excessive Faculty. Harrison referred to as “him one in one million.” Final Oct. 6, he was tragically killed whereas strolling in a drag racing hit-and-run crash that led to an outpouring of help and tributes.

“That impacted me deeply,” Shawn mentioned. “That harm me, after all, however I used to be pondering, what would he do? And he would make a optimistic impression with these children and that’s what I’m making an attempt to do. Is simply making an attempt to make a optimistic impression with these children by means of soccer.

“Amongst the remainder of my household, my brother, he’s the one that provides me the trouble and vitality daily to go on the market. After I’m struggling on the market. When the youngsters are lacking a sort out or lacking a block, he simply provides me that vitality, he provides me the drive to don’t quit. Don’t let these children down.”

In flip, Harrison has been happy with the group’s preseason effort. He mentioned, “I feel throughout the subsequent couple of years if these children keep throughout the program, they’ll be some respectable ball gamers.”

He’s additionally seeing flashes of senior management. He referred to as middle Andy Lan, “a optimistic affect. He’s been a pacesetter. He’s virtually been an extension of me, getting the youngsters out. Teaching up the youngsters. All of my seniors have been optimistic.”

They embrace returners from final season in receivers Dylan Darkwah and Donald Wong and operating again/linebacker Michael Adamczyk-Zapor.

“I can’t complain one bit,” Harrison mentioned. “It’s an honor to be head coach at Highland Park. It’s an honor to teach these children and work with these children not solely on the sphere, however within the classroom as properly. And it’s simply an honor to symbolize the soccer group, in addition to the group, as head soccer coach. I actually, actually recognize the outpouring of well-wishers from everybody throughout the board throughout the group.”

ABOUT THE OWLS

Coach: Shawn Harrison, 1st season

Assistants: Corey Carter (offensive coordinator); Michael Moore (defensive coordinator); Volunteer assistants: Joe Policastro; Chris Bray; LJ Smith; Christian Smith; Benjamin Jacoby

Stadium: Jay Dakelman Subject (turf)

Colours: Maroon and white

Classification: South Group I

Offensive formation: a number of

Defensive formation: Four-Three