Capriola named new Harrison football coach

When Danny Hicks suddenly resigned as the head football coach at Harrison High School last month, it left the program with a gaping hole at the top.

After all, it should not have come as a surprise, considering that Harrison has employed a total of seven different head coaches in the last nine years.

But Hicks was different, because he was young, energetic and came from right across the street in the Harrison Gardens.

However, Hicks departed for an assistant coaching position at American International College, giving the 26-year-old Hicks the golden opportunity to be a collegiate head coach.

With the position once again open, Brian Capriola seized the opportunity. The 31-year-old Capriola, a former assistant coach at William Paterson University, as well as Mountain Lakes, Bayonne and St. Peter’s Prep, wanted the chance to become a head coach.

So Capriola reached out to two of his former coaching colleagues at St. Peter’s Prep to see what they thought of the possibility of taking over the program at Harrison.

“I contacted Rich Hansen, Jr. and Ryan O’Flaherty to see what they thought,” Capriola said. “I always thought that I could be a head coach some day. From their knowledge of the program, I thought it was something I wanted to pursue. There’s a certain way to run a program. If they told me that I was out of my mind, I would have listened. But they gave me the confidence I needed to go about applying.”

Capriola contacted Harrison athletic director Kim Huaranga and inquired about the position. By then, Capriola already knew about the returning talent that the Blue Tide had returning, in particular, standout quarterback Mateo DeSosa, who should be one of the top signal callers in northern New Jersey in 2019.

“I realize that speed kills,” Capriola said. “And these kids have a lot of speed. They also have a certain toughness about them. You can see that on film. They have toughness at every position. Dan Hicks did a good job with them and with the program. He got the whole town excited about football.”

Capriola met with Huaranga and he came away impressed.

“Kim gets it,” Capriola said. “She understands what it takes.”

So Capriola has decided to take over the Harrison program. He was introduced to the players as the new head coach last week.

Right away, Capriola was impressed with his quarterback.

“Mateo is electric,” Capriola said. “He really is. When you look at a quarterback, there are certain things you need. Mateo has a good character. He also has excellent accuracy. He’s ready to lead and he’s ready to win.”

The first meeting between new coach and quarterback was interesting.

“I said to him that I saw his highlight film,” Capriola said. “He said, ‘So, do you like what you see?’ You can see his confidence when he throws. You can also see how he leads the receivers. They’re ready to catch and go. That’s the first thing that was impressive to me. We’re also going to see what he can do with his legs. It’s not essential, but it makes the potential for the offense grow even more.”

DeSosa has the ability to be the best Blue Tide signal caller since former Jets quarterback and current SNY analyst Ray Lucas in the 1980s.

“Any time you mention someone in the same breath with Ray Lucas, you’re saying something,” Capriola said. “It means he has to be special.”

Capriola said that his first meeting with the whole team went well.

“I think overall, they’re so excited to continue the success they had last year,” Capriola said.

The Blue Tide finished 5-5 in Hicks’ lone year as head coach in 2018.

Capriola has to rebuild the entire coaching staff, as assistant coaches John Fannan and Mark Everett have decided not to return. But Capriola already has some quality coaches in mind to come in and assist with the Blue Tide.

Capriola said that he is definitely an offensive minded coach.

“I’d say I’m offensive minded big time,” Capriola said. “I come from coaches like Dave Albano at Parsippany Hills (where Capriola played and graduated from) and coaches like Darrell Fusco at Mountain Lakes. They made me more of an offensive guy. We’re going to be 100 percent ‘Air Raid’ as I call it. It’s the perfect place to use that offense. We are going to be as fast as we can snap it.”

Capriola believes that the Blue Tide already has a lot of speed.

“No doubt we have it,” Capriola said. “I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to work with these kids. I owe them stuff that they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives. I’ve been around some great teachers in my career. I think it’s contagious, what I’ve learned.”

And Capriola is already envisioning one thing.

“I believe that losing breeds losing, but winning breeds winning,” Capriola said. “There are certain things you have to do to be a winner. If you build that kind of athlete, then the winning can take place. The foundation is very important to have that certain element of success. I think with the talent we have returning, we can win right away.”

Capriola plans on being involved with the town’s youth football program.

“When you say winning, that’s an important part,” Capriola said about working with the youngsters. “I had the fortune of being around some good programs and I saw what it took to be successful. Right now, we’re going to operate with winning in mind. We have the talent and the character here to win.”

Sounds like the perfect recipe. The proof now for Brian Capriola is in the pudding.




Brian Capriola is the new head football coach at Harrison High School, replacing Danny Hicks. Photo by Jim Hague



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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.”