Taj Harris is on the verge of making history in his final football game for Palmyra, but the 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior isn’t too worried about the record book. Earning a “W” in the final game of what has been a versatile, spectacular and somewhat under-the-radar career is his priority.
The Panthers will face Burlington City on Thanksgiving in a series that began in 1909. Palmyra (5-4) has won its last three games. Burlington City (8-2) is coming off a 41-20 loss to Middlesex in the Central Jersey Group 1 semifinals.
“It’s going to be emotional because it will be my last game,” Harris said.
It could also be a game in which he stands alone in South Jersey history.
Harris, who committed during the summer to Syracuse, played receiver in his first varsity season, as a sophomore at Palmyra. Last season, he was mainly a receiver but also got some time at quarterback, throwing for 441 yards and seven touchdowns. This year, he has been mainly at quarterback, the position he played growing up.
According to area football historian Chuck Langerman, Harris one of only two players in South Jersey history to pass for at least 1,000 yards in one season and have at least 1,000 receiving yards in another. In 2015 as a sophomore, Harris had 51 receptions for 1,101 yards and 13 touchdowns, according to coach Jack Geisel. This season, Geisel says, Harris has passed for 1,408 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Langerman lists the only other South Jersey player in the 1,000-1,000 club as Mark Schenauer of Absegami. In 2005, Schenauer had 1,043 receiving yards. The next year, he threw for 1,763 yards as Absegami won the South Jersey Group 4 title.
With a big game against Burlington City, Harris could stand alone. That’s because, according to Langerman, nobody in South Jersey has ever had 1,000-yard seasons in rushing, receiving and passing. Harris has rushed for 915 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
He says that potential record just isn’t foremost on his mind. In fact, Harris wasn’t aware of any record before being questioned about it.
“I just want to give my all every game,” he said.
Harris has enjoyed an interesting career. He was a key receiver on a 10-2 Palmyra team as a sophomore. The Panthers advanced to the Central Jersey Group 1 final before losing, 56-28, to Shore. Palmyra’s No. 1 receiver that season was Kelvin Harmon, who is a standout at North Carolina State, with 62 receptions for 972 yards and four touchdowns this season.
“Playing with Kelvin, I learned a lot,” Harris said.
He learned his lessons well.
Harris has enjoyed playing quarterback, but was recruited by Syracuse to be a receiver.
“I like playing receiver better,” he said.
Geisel feels that Harris shouldn’t totally abandon his quarterback skills at the next level.
“I could see him being a Wildcat quarterback,” Geisel said. “He also could be an explosive returner.”
It makes sense that Harris could do more than one job even in college.
Right now, he is concerned only with going out on a winning note, which won’t be easy against the resurgent Blue Devils.
“It’s my last game,” Harris said. “I want to finish strong.”