Morrow legacy at Harlem: 15 years, 101 wins, 13 state qualifiers

Jim Morrow has resigned as head coach of the football program at Harlem High School. The announcement was made last week by the school’s athletic director, Kurt Weigt.

Morrow’s tenure was the most successful among coaches with nine or more years of leading the program.

“I am forever grateful for the trust and responsibility given to me to lead a program and to be a part of so many lives,” he said in a statement. “The hardest part of the decision is the loss of the brotherhood that comes with being part of a great coaching staff. I will miss the interaction and collective efforts we amassed every season, and every week to prepare and win each game.”

This year’s coaching staff included assistants Scott Sholl, Courtney Ford, Mike Rizzo, Nick Moses, Matt Riddle and Mark Foster.

The announcement from Harlem Athletics read:

“Jim Morrow has always put the program and his players as a top priority. Jim’s professionalism and attention to detail are unmatched. Jim has always worked hard to promote his guys to be great people, students and athletes.

“Jim has always been a huge advocate of Harlem Athletics and of the vision for all our programs over the years. Harlem Athletics will miss Jim, but wish him well in each of his future endeavors.”

During those 15 years Morrow-coached teams recorded 101 wins and 51 losses, for a winning percentage of .664.

According to records kept by the Illinois High School Association, dating back to the 1931 season, there were five head coaches, including Morrow, who served for nine or more seasons. They were:

* Fred Crawford, 1931-39, record of 40 wins, 17 losses and eight ties, winning percentage of .677.

* Clyde Peterson, 1946-57, record of 48 wins, 36 losses and nine ties, winning percentage of .565. The football field at Harlem was named for him.

* Jerry Stalcup, 1975-86, record of 25 wins, 83 losses and two ties. State playoffs started in 1974, with five classes. He had Harlem’s first state qualifier, in 1977, when his team finished 7-2 during the regular season.

* Brian Benning, 1994-2003, record of 44 wins and 50 losses, with three state qualifiers.

* Jim Morrow, 2004-2018, record of 101 wins and 51 losses with 13 state qualifiers, including the last 11 in a row. He only had two losing seasons among the 15, and those were early in his tenure.

Harlem’s best winning percentage of .735 was achieved by Ray Lotzer-coached teams in 1943-45, when they won 12 games, lost four and tied one.

The Huskies had 16 head coaches over 86 years with a combined record of 320 wins, 398 losses and 32 ties.

The 2018 team

Morrow’s last team was 7-2 during the regular season and 7-3 overall. The three losses were by a total of 17 points, an average of 5.7 per game. While finishing third in the NIC-10, this year’s Huskies scored 321 points while allowing 99, an average score of 36-11 per game.

That last team featured standout individual performers from each of the four classes at the school.

Quarterback James Cooper Jr., only a sophomore, led the NIC-10 by completing 137 of 251 passes for 1,823 yards and a new school record of 22 touchdowns. He also ran for four TDs.

Senior Johnny Shemshidini, who missed several games because of injury, led the ground attack with 68 carries for 264 yards and five touchdowns.

Cooper spread his passes around, completing throws to 12 receivers. Four of them hauled in 20 or more passes each, led by sophomore Dominic McCarren’s 35 catches for 428 yards and five scores.

Defensively, another senior, Chris Houston, finished with 57 tackles to go with two fumble recoveries and one pass interception. Freshman Adrian Palos had 55 tackles even though he missed three games with injury. He led the team with six quarterback sacks. And senior Nick Blades had 50 tackles with five sacks.

Another senior, Connor Aldrich, had six pass interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns. In all, the Huskies had 11 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries.

Junior Jalon Benson, who missed the playoff game with injury, led Harlem with 13 touchdowns, four rushing, six on pass receptions and three on punt returns.

Kicker Anthony Buffington, a senior, missed part of the season with injury, then returned to make 11-of-13 extra point kicks and make 4-of-5 field goal attempts. Junior Diego Zambrano kicked earlier in the season and was 20-of-27 on PATs.

Special teams were led by Zambrano and Buffington with kickoffs; junior Leo Ruiz with punts, Aldrich with kickoff returns and Benson with punt returns.


Coach Jim Morrow has served the Harlem School District as Head Football Coach for the last 15 years and recently resigned from that position.

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