Rosemont >> Harriton High School’s second-year athletic director Shawn Albert has been focusing on community growth in the Rams’ athletic program, and this fall has been particularly encouraged by the community’s involvement in the Harriton football team.
Although the Ram gridders were winless last year, the team’s fans filled the stands for Harriton’s first four home football contests this fall, including a 14-0 win against George School Sept. 23 that boosted the team’s record to 2-3.
Harriton football head coach Justin Mellor said, “The energy of the crowd was palpable again on the sidelines. The team fed off the energy.”
Albert said, “Our first four home football games have been heavily attended by our students and community. Our goal is to create an environment where our community wants to come. Our student council leadership, along with our booster club parents, have put a lot of energy in creating that environment and we are excited about the outcome so far.
“Fan attendance certainly energizes our players, cheerleaders, and pep band who are performing. As an athletic director, I believe this increased support and attendance will help bolster our participating numbers for all groups – football, cheerleading and the band.”
Albert has been encouraged by the assistance of the Harriton booster club, and the Ram parents.
“Our booster club parents have been phenomenal in supporting our student athletes – this group of parents have been volunteering their time each week to plan team meals, fundraise, and coordinate efforts to promote their sport,” said Albert. “In fact, our parents across all programs are engaged and supportive of our coaching staffs and student athletes. … Community growth in Harriton athletics is something we are working on in building a consistent football program.”
The Rams’ varsity football team is playing an independent schedule in 2022 and 2023, which pits them against teams that are more similar in roster size to Harriton.
“We recognized that our [football] program needed help as our numbers were not at a comfortable level,” said Albert. “We lost a good amount of seniors to graduation last spring. Many of our players have had to play out of position in order to field a team at the varsity level. Our goal has always been to provide our student athletes the best opportunity to grow and gain positive experiences.”
The Rams football team plans to return to the Central League in 2024.
“The Central League is a very strong athletic league in all sports and football is no exception,” said Albert. “There have been a number of football programs across District One who have requested similar exemptions from their respective leagues because of their struggles with participating numbers.
“Our principal, Mr. Weinstein and I agreed that this was an avenue that would help us rebuild a program so that it can sustain itself and grow in competition in years to come. The Central League allowed us to build an independent school for the 2022 and 2023 seasons and we are very appreciative of the opportunity. We have every intention to returning back to a regular league schedule for 2024 season and maintaining growth throughout.”
The approval of building an independent schedule over the next two years includes the Harriton football team rejoining regular Central League play starting in 2024.
“We understand the obstacles that the Central League football teams had to go through to replace us on their schedule and appreciate their support,” said Albert. “We continue to remain focused on building a program that can respectfully compete in the Central League for years to come.”
This fall, the Harriton football program had 43 players come out for the team, an encouraging sign per Albert. The Harriton athletic director was asked if there has been discussion about promoting a Lower Merion youth football program.
“It would be ideal for a youth [football] program to develop within the Lower Merion community,” said Albert. “A youth program would certainly complement our middle schools and ultimately both high schools – Lower Merion and Harriton. Lower Merion High School has done a fantastic job with their program as they have been able to create a ninth grade football team.
“Our growth in numbers here at Harriton along with the fan support, excites me about our future. There are a lot of good things happening at both Harriton and Lower Merion High School that we hope will bolster not just our football programs, but all of our athletic programs.”
- Eddie Levin contributed to this article.
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