Harrison: Choosing Summer Creek difficult because of PA kids

Published 7:15 pm Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Tropical Storm Harvey is no distant memory in Southeast Texas.

The storm not only delayed school in the Port Arthur Independent School District for three weeks and cost the Memorial Titans two non-district football games — let alone force District 22-5A to have each team play four games in 18 days to catch up on schedule for the UIL playoffs.

It took away many homes, including Kenny Harrison’s.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We’re displaced,” said Harrison, who along with his family has stayed with a close friend in Groves since the Aug. 29-30 disaster. “We do not have a home at this time. This program is one of the top football programs in the state of Texas. I can overcome not having a home to help the kids continue to have a good football season.”

Harrison mentioned Harvey’s wrath when asked about his decision to leave a school district he’s known all his life — he graduated from Thomas Jefferson in 1991 and began his coaching career at the former high school in 1997.

He’ll have a home in the Humble ISD as head football coach and campus coordinator at Summer Creek, one of the district’s six high schools (and one of five with an athletic department).

Harrison, a PA native who was officially hired upon the district’s approval Tuesday night, said the decision to leave Memorial and PAISD was “by far” the most difficult he’s made in his career because of the kids, some of whom were displaced by Harvey but came back during the season and help the Titans win a share of the District 22-5A championship and reach the Region III semifinals in 5A Division I.

“I feel the program is headed in the right direction,” Harrison said. “I think a coach who can come in with some fresh ideas can take it to the next level.”

Humble ISD is no stranger to welcoming Port Arthur people to the helm of one of its programs. Dean Colbert, who became Memorial’s first head coach in 2002, left after the 2005 season and went to Atascocita, where successor and former Jefferson quarterback Craig Stump is now head coach.

“It’s a great area for my family,” said Harrison, who’s married to Latania with son Kadon, a University of Louisiana freshman, and daughter Kason, a Memorial freshman. “Unfortunately, we were flooded. We lost everything in the hurricane. My family and I were still displaced, but we always felt Humble is a beautiful place to live.

“I had an opportunity to compete against these schools in Humble [in past years]. The school district is second to none. We felt it was a great fit, although it’d be difficult to leave Memorial High School.”

Harrison said the meeting with his Memorial players Wednesday was emotional, adding he ultimately wants to see the Titans win a state championship. He led the Titans to their furthest playoff run in 2011, making the state semifinals in what is now 6A Division II.

Keitha Jones, Memorial’s senior quarterback who a week earlier signed with Tulane, said Harrison took a well-deserved opportunity.

“I feel like he’s doing what’s best for him and his family and he deserves it,” Jones said. “It’s an opportunity and he took it. No love lost. That’s my guy and always will be.”

Monte Barrow, a longtime Nederland assistant who was promoted to head coach last Feb. 27, said Harrison always got the most out of his players.

“You weren’t going to catch them not ready to play,” said Barrow, whose Bulldogs lost 13-7 to Memorial in an Oct. 2 game that went down to Nederland’s last possession. “He always knew the right things to say.”

Barrow, who like Harrison has always coached in the district where he graduated, said the former Jefferson and University of Texas wide receiver carried himself similarly.

“The attitude he had as a receiver is kind of the same as receivers today — throw me the ball, I’ll make the play,” Barrow said. “That’s kind of a good trait to have.”

Harrison said if he had to address the city of Port Arthur, he would tell the people each decision he made during his career was made with Port Arthur kids’ best interests in mind.

“I love Port Arthur kids as if they were mine,” Harrison said. “My goal for them is to be better young men. My coaching staff and I have had success putting kids on the next level.

“… If I had it my way, I would take every single kid, and they would go anywhere I go if they had the opportunity.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews


About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

email author More by I.C.