Harrison is playoff bound! Blue Tide headed to football playoffs for first time since 1989

When Harrison High School lost its head football coach to a drunken traffic accident in August, no one could have ever imagined that the Blue Tide would have a successful season.

But lo and behold, look at the magic that new coach Michael Hinchcliffe could perform.

Although the Blue Tide dropped its game over the weekend to Waldwick/Midland Park, it was learned that they have accumulated enough power points to earn a spot in the upcoming NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II playoffs.

Unless there is a dramatic turnaround this weekend, the Blue Tide (5-2) will travel to face undefeated Roselle (7-0) in the opening round of the state playoffs on the weekend of Nov. 11-12.

The Blue Tide currently sits in sixth place in the Central Group II bracket and has an outside shot of moving up to No. 5 with a win this weekend against Glen Rock in Harrison.

But it appears that the Blue Tide will draw Roselle in the playoffs.

It doesn’t matter. The Blue Tide is headed to the postseason. That alone is borderline miraculous for a program that hasn’t won five games in season before this year since 2003 and haven’t been to the playoffs in 27 years.

There was a lot of losing in between. A lot of losing. In fact, since the 2003 season, the 5-5 version of the Blue Tide, Harrison had posted a 20-93 combined record, including two winless campaigns.

So Hinchcliffe didn’t know what to expect, after he was thrust into the head coaching position, replacing Tom Ferriero and his DWI problems.

“I wasn’t sure if the kids could play well,” Hinchcliffe said. “I wondered, ‘What are my chances of getting something done?’ But the kids never wavered once. They all knew they had a chance to do something special. I thought the hardest thing was going to be for the kids to lose that losing mentality. But they got rid of it before I got there. They just knew that they were all in to do something special.”

Hinchcliffe, an alumnus who played on the last team to go to the state playoffs in 1989 and was a freshman when Harrison won the North Jersey Section 1, Group II team for Ralph Borgess in 1986, said that he told the kids about earning a berth in the postseason.

“I told them that I knew what it was like,” Hinchcliffe said. “I was also a coach at Ridgefield two years ago when we faced Hoboken. I told them that the first thing they had to do was to get to 4-0. Once they achieved that, winning the first four games, then they put themselves into position to believe. They needed to get one more special win to get in.”

Two weeks ago, the Blue Tide defeated New Milford, 35-28, to earn the fifth win.

“That’s the one that earned them respect from around the state,” Hinchcliffe said. “They were assured a winning record and the state playoffs became a reality.”

The Blue Tide collectively got on the shoulders of do-everything quarterback Mike O’Donnell and workhorse running back Dustin Huseinovic to get that victory and eventually punch their ticket into the state playoffs.

Hinchcliffe said that he knew the Blue Tide had indeed clinched a playoff berth after the win over New Milford.

“I never let them know,” Hinchcliffe said. “I don’t know if they could calculate the power points or if they knew. If they knew, they never let on.”

Now, it’s official.

“It’s been too long,” Hinchcliffe said. “I’m happy for the town, for the school, for the community. I’m happy for everyone. We still have a rich football tradition in Harrison and we have people coming out of the woodwork to congratulate us. It’s a great feeling.”

Of the local teams, Lyndhurst has a slight chance to qualify in North 2, Group II. The Golden Bears defeated Lodi, 32-14, to improve to 4-4 and move into eighth place in the power point standings. However, Hackettstown has a game in hand and faces 1-7 Warren Hills this weekend. The Bears need a Warren Hills victory over Hackettstown to get in as the No. 8 seed.


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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”