Harrison star Omar Sowe was named NJIC Player of the Year and earned All-State Second Team honors last season. (Reena Rose Sibayan | The Jersey Journal)
Last year, Omar Sowe had one of the greatest individual seasons in Harrison’sstoried soccer history. But the star midfielder doesn’t think fondly upon the records he set, the individual honors he received or even the 20 wins the Blue Tide had.
Instead, his thoughts always drift back to the season’s low point: a 3-0 loss to Dover in the NJSIAA North 2, Group 2 final. It was the only game where Sowe was held without a point.
Dover went on to win the Group 2 state championship. Instead of that state title – which is an expectation rather than a goal in Harrison – Sowe was left with disappointment and plenty of motivation.
“There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about it. Ever since that day, it’s just been on my mind,” Sowe said. “It’s always there with me. No matter where I go or what I do, it always comes to me, especially losing that badly in that type of game.
“It outweighs all of the (individual accomplishments). Sometimes I forget how many goals I even scored or how many games I played in, just because of that one game. I feel like all the hard work and everything I’ve done didn’t mean anything, going out like that, especially losing 3-0 like that. It out-ruled everything.”
Sowe might choose to under-emphasize the accomplishments from the first 22 games, but it certainly doesn’t erase them.
Last year, Sowe started the season at center back before moving up to midfield after the first few games. There, the 6-foot-1, 176-pound Sowe’s combination of strength, speed and the ability to shoot with either foot made him virtually unstoppable.
He tied the Harrison record for goals in a season with 37. His 31 assists were the most in school history. The performance earned him both North Jersey Interscholastic Conference Player of the Year and Second Team All-State honors by NJ.com.
Sowe has made it a priority to be a better leader for a veteran Blue Tide squad, which returns nine starters, but he admits did not communicate well as a team.
When it comes to leadership, Sowe has looked at the example set by older brother Modou, who was as a senior captain named The Star-Ledger Boys Soccer State Player of the Year in 2013 and currently plays at Rowan.
“For me, I understand. I got everything I am today because of my older brother,” Omar said. “I got the chance to watch him play, watch how he stepped up to help lead his team.
“I know it means a lot to me and my whole family that (my younger brother) Mustapha and I are playing together. Stepping up is not just about scoring goals.”
The Sowe family was born in Gambia, but Omar and Mustapha (a rising sophomore), learned what soccer meant in Harrison as they grew up. They were ball boys when Modou’s teams reached the state final and won a Hudson County title, as well as the year after he graduated when the Blue Tide won their record 25th state championship in 2014.
It’s why Omar, who as a sophomore scored the decisive goal in PKs to give the Blue Tide their 37th sectional crown, knows what it would mean to bring another state title home to Harrison.
“I used to go to all of the state games and whenever they lost, it hit me too. I don’t know why, but I’d start crying. I understood how much it means to them,” Sowe said. “This year, I feel like if I don’t win it, it’s not a good way to go out. I don’t think that’s an option.
“I’d take every individual award and trade it for a state championship. It means a lot to bring it back to Harrison. (The thought of) just walking around and saying ‘look, we won the state championship,’ would be like wow. That would be an awesome feeling, that would be the greatest achievement of my high school career.”