Harrison upends Kearny, 4-3, to earn berth in Hudson finale

Before his Harrison High School soccer team was going to take on archrival Kearny in the semifinals of the Hudson County Tournament last Thursday night, Omar Sowe just knew that the tide was going to turn – in this case, a Blue Tide.

“Ever since the game at Red Bull Arena (on Sept. 15, won by Kearny, 3-1), we knew we were going to play them again,” said Sowe, the All-State striker. “We just knew that we were somehow going to play them again. I hate losing and hated losing that game. I think we gave them a little too much respect that day.”

The win in September marked the seventh straight time that Kearny had won the showdown between the neighboring rivals dating back to 2013, when the two schools met in the finals of the Hudson County Tournament.

“Once the seeds came out and we knew we were going to play them in the semifinals, we were ready,” Sowe said. “I said to my teammates, ‘We have to win this game.’”

Sowe did everything he could to bring the Blue Tide home from Caven Point Cochrane Stadium in Jersey City victorious.

Sowe scored three goals, leading the Blue Tide to the shocking 4-3 upset win over the defending champions. In fact, Kearny had captured four of the previous five Hudson County titles, but not this year. Sowe wouldn’t see to it.

“We’ve never had a single player who had a game like that,” Harrison head coach Mike Rusek said of Sowe’s performance. “We’ve had some great players over the years, but none that did what Omar did in those conditions. And the rest of the team just feeds off a player like that.”

Sowe gave the Blue Tide (12-3) the lead for good with a goal just four minutes into the match.

“He just rifled it in,” Rusek said. “It was like a line drive in baseball that just kept getting higher and higher. Our confidence just soared when Omar scored that goal.”
The confidence then had to be sky high when Maicol Diaz scored in the 35th minute, pushing the lead to 2-0. As anyone knows, the most important goal to get in soccer is the second goal, because it changes all momentum and strategy. In a top-flight competitive game like a county semifinal between two serious rivals, the 2-0 lead was gigantic.

Rusek said that there wasn’t a motivational rah-rah speech before this game.

“We all thought we could play better,” Rusek said. “The other game was a month ago. A lot has changed in that time. We’ve come a long way as the season has progressed. I also hope that we’ve become a better team. We weren’t as good then as we are now. We wanted to show everyone we were better, so this was a great chance to go out and prove it.”

Sowe knew that scoring early made all the difference in the world.

“We knew that they were never down by two goals before, so we felt if we hit them hard and hit them early, they wouldn’t be expecting that,” Sowe said. “Once we got the first goal, we had to keep going to get the second one. We didn’t change the game plan. We just went out, played good soccer and had some fun. We had to stay together and stay more confident and we would get the result.”

Kardinals fine striker Ryan Silva did his best to keep the Kardinals (12-3-1) in the match. He scored via a penalty kick right before the half ended, slicing the lead to 2-1. In the end, Silva had three goals for the Kards.

But the Blue Tide scored the third goal, the second of Sowe’s tallies, to push the lead back up to 3-1.

The two teams traded goals, before Sowe put the finishing touches on the game and the Kards, winning 4-3. The victory has enabled Harrison to advance to the HCT title game for the first time since winning the crown in 2013. The Blue Tide will face Union City in the finals Thursday night at Caven Point Cochrane Field on the campus of the Ed “Faa” Ford Memorial Athletic Complex in Jersey City at 7 p.m.

One thing’s for sure: Harrison will be ready.

“We knew the game against Kearny was very important, but this game is now for a championship,” Sowe said. “Every loss, I take with me every day. When we lost to them last year (3-2 also at Caven Point), I blamed myself. I said, ‘Next year, we have to come out and face them straight up. It was a very big win, because I feel like we never get the recognition against a team like Kearny. We never get the recognition we deserve. We beat one of the best teams in the state.”

Sowe now has 20 goals and 18 assists on the season. He’s a bit behind last year’s pace – and he knows it.

“He’s still responsible for a majority of our goals, either with goals or assists,” Rusek said. “He’s the main offensive weapon. Whenever we have a big game, Omar seems to rise to the occasion. I just hope he continues what he’s doing.”

“People only remember stuff about you if you win,” Sowe said. “It’s my senior year and I want to win big.”

If that’s the case, then it all begins for real on Thursday night.

“We always hoped we would be a better team as the season progressed,” Rusek said. “We didn’t use it for motivation. It means a lot to this team to be recognized. We just thought we could play better than we did the first time. But it means a lot for us to be in the county finals. We’re one of the smallest schools in the county, yet we’re there. It’s a nice accomplishment.”

On to the county finals against another state-ranked opponent. It should be a barnburner.

“We’re so much happier in October than we were in September,” Rusek said. “We went through a lot of ups and downs. But this gives us a real good feeling moving forward.”



Harrison senior Omar Sowe has been on a mission of late, evidenced by his three-goal performance in the Hudson County Tournament semifinals against rival Kearny last week. Sowe and the Blue Tide face Union City for the county crown Thursday night. Photo by Jim Hague


















Omar Sowe recorded a hat trick as fifth-seeded Harrison defeated top-seeded and defending champion Kearny, No. 14 in the NJ.com Top 20, 4-3, in the Hudson County Tournament semifinals at the Caven Point Athletic Complex in Jersey City.

Sowe, a senior, now has 20 goals this year and has at least one point in 15 of 16 games this season.

Harrison, which won the HCT in 2009 and 2013, returns to the final for the first time since 2013. It will face third-seeded Union City in the title game on Thursday. Union City defeated second-seeded and No. 9 St. Peter’s Prep, 4-1, in the other semifinal.

Maicol Diaz added a goal for Harrison, which led 2-1 at halftime.

Kearny got three goals from Ryan Silva, giving the senior 21 on the season. Gabriel Santos made five saves.

Kearny, which was seeking a fourth county title in five years, defeated Harrison, 3-1, at Red Bull Arena on September 15.


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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.”