Harrison Flag Football wins NJIC Championship

After two straight years of being runners for the NJIC Championship, the Harrison flag football team made sure that it wouldn’t happen a third time and they did it in emphatic fashion.

Instead, the third time proved to be the charm on Tuesday when Harrison blanked Leonia, 24-0, in the NJIC title game at Harrison.

“It was incredible for the girls, after the last two years, getting stalled out in the NJIC championship game and then being able to finish the job and win one,” Harrison head coach Dan Nankivell said. “Especially for the players like Rebecca (Sardinha) who was on both of those teams year one and year two, they remember what it felt like to lose those games. They weren’t going to let that happen again.”

While several big contributors experienced last year’s final, one who didn’t, freshman Kasandra Rodriguez, who delivered the first explosive play, a 52-yard rushing touchdown to give the Blue Tide a 6-0 first half lead.

Mya De Jesus added to the lead with three touchdowns. The first, a 2-yard run before the end of the opening half. The sophomore later caught a 12-yard TD pass from Hailey Scocco and ran for a 13-yard TD in the second half as she finished with 57 rushing yards on eight carries

Scocco was an impact player on the defensive side of the ball with three interceptions while Rebecca Sardinha had eight tackles and two sacks.

As a team, Harrison allowed just 37 yards of total offense as it posted its sixth shutout of the season.

“It was amazing,” Sardinha said about winning the title. “That felt really special.”

Harrison’s season came to an end one night later at Clifton High School when it was shutout by Ridgewood, 33-0, in the North Jersey State Flag Football Championship semifinals.

While it was a disappointing ending to a stellar 9-1-1 season, Nankivell is upbeat for next season as virtually the entire roster is set to return for 2025.

“I think the team rallied together and put that behind them,” said Nankivell. “They know for most of them that they have another shot at it. Next year, for the most part, the entire team comes back. I’m sure this game was a motivation.”

Wednesday’s flag football semifinal marked the end of team sports for Observer area teams in the 2023-24 academic year.

Two days earlier, Harrison’s boys volleyball team fell one win short of its ultimate goal of a state sectional championship when it was swept by West Caldwell Tech, 25-14, 25-16, in the North Jersey, Group 1 final in Harrison.

Senior Anthony Narvaez had eight kills and 14 digs for the Blue Tide as he wrapped a stellar career that saw him win three county championships (the first coming as a sophomore at Kearny).

Alattim DeLeon, Yamil Espinoza and Frank Barrera added three kills apiece and Jeremy Rivera had 14 digs for Harrison, which ends the season with a record of 26-5 and a second consecutive Hudson County Tournament title.

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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)