Owls will get one more crack this year at stopping skid, inching toward state record

Highland Park players huddle up before their season opener at Metuchen on August 27, 2022. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Several years ago, Joe Theismann – in a 2017 visit to his alma mater, South River, which happened to be playing Highland Park – made headlines for his laudatory comments about the Owls’ football team.

He told MyCentralJersey.com reporter Andy Mendlowitz, “I admire the living daylights out of every one of them. Every one of them. It doesn’t matter what the score is. The score is insignificant in my opinion in this particular game. It’s the fact that these kids just keep on playing and going and going. And I admire them tremendously.”

The numbers in the program are better, and the scores have been closer. Shawn Harrison has established flag football in town where there’s no Pop Warner program, trying to squeeze every last drop out of the tiny boro’s student-athletes. It’s been an all-out effort

And the dozen or so guys in maroon would run through the wall for Harrison and assistant Joe Policastro, who can tell every kid stories of the glory days, which aren’t even all that far off. They were in a state final as recently as 2009.

Highland Park took another close one on the chin Thursday night in a consolation game against longtime Turkey Day rival Metuchen, losing 35-20, to drop to 0-9, while the Bulldogs got to 4-5.

The Owls still lead the series, 61-25-1, but Metuchen has won the last six dating back to 2017, and ironically, Highland Park’s last win came against the Bulldogs on Thanksgiving 2016, a convincing 35-7 win.

But there are so many promising signs. This year, they came close a few times. How close?

They scored 44 points against Dunellen in Week Two, but lost 50-44. They had a late chance to beat Dayton but lost 20-18, their closest loss on the entire streak. They had never been closer than 12 points in a loss on the entire skid, and the 156 points they scored this season (17.3 per game) was the most in the teams first nine games since 2016, when they went 6-4 – their last winning season – and scored 293 points.

But alas, they are at 51 games, four shy of the mark set by Newark East Side, whose streak ended in 2017. The caveat is that while East Side forfeited a single game in 2013 – losing 54 straight on the field, 55 overall, to own the New Jersey record – Highland Park forfeited one game in 2017 and four in 2018, meaning they’ve technically only lost 46 straight on the field.

Interestingly enough, the streaks briefly overlapped. East Side lost its first three games of 2017 before snapping the skid, and Highland Park’s first game of 2017 began its streak.

They Owls will get one more chance to end it this year. Next Thursday, they visit 2-8 Point Pleasant Beach, which has victories over winless South River and two-win Jackson Liberty.

Let’s go Owls!

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