EAST ORANGE, NJ (updated Wednesday August 2, 9:05 a.m.) – After two years, the East Orange Campus High School football team has seen a quick turnover in head coaches and it left them wondering what is in store for them next. With former head coach Al-Majid Hutchins moving on to a new career outside of football, it was a matter of time to see who would step in to fill the shoes of a spunky upcoming bunch of players who were eliminated twice in the state playoffs in 2015 and 2016.
Rae Oliver has a long history with coaching and football. He’s currently a Social Studies teacher at East Orange Campus HS and was on several top coaching staffs as an assistant throughout northern New Jersey. His coaching knowledge stems back to his family’s involvement with the City of East Orange. He has been able to garner the respect of fellow coaches whereever he goes, which includes Bergen Catholic head coach Nunzio Campanile.
Recently he was asked what his vision is for East Orange Football as a whole.
“I am looking to engage our players with former players like themselves who have moved on to bigger and better things,” Oliver said.
Oliver is on his third go-around as a coach for East Orange starting back in 1995 at the former East Orange High School with former Panthers head coach Jamal Williamson and later with the late Larry Schumacher Sr. at Clifford Scott and the then-newly merged East Orange Campus High School. After Coach Schumacher left East Orange Campus, Oliver stayed on for former head coach Marion Bell. He was on staff for the 2007 state championship team, coaching Hutchins as a player.
“I have always taught in the school district, starting with Dionne Warwick Elementary School, followed by Campus 9 and now currently at East Orange Campus” said Oliver.
“Since I’ve taken over as head coach, I have found myself apologizing to the parents and the players who make up the core of our team,” continued Oliver. “It is without them that there wouldn’t be any sacrifice. So it goes without question that we start with them first.”
Oliver is making it very clear that the players are all coming back to East Orange rather than going to other places to play and attend school. “It was a perfect situation with all new leadership throughout the city from the school’s principal, to the installment of the new superintendent of schools, and the new incoming mayor-elect Ted Green. The opportunity to provide an opening for our players and community is there. I want to see us seize it and capitalize on it.”
Oliver’s plans are pretty ideal when it comes to the youth organizations that feed into the high school. “There are four youth football programs in the city, of which three are Pop Warner-related (East Orange Rams, Junior Jaguars, and Hurricanes) while the remaining team, the East Orange Panthers, are a part of the American Youth Football affiliate Garden State American Youth Football League. Ideally, I would like to see each program to take a level of kids and work with all the kids in the city who wants to play. As they grow, they would move on to the next team, getting to experience different coaching styles and ultimately learning our system by the time they reach their freshman year of high school.
“Ultimately, I understand that it comes down to the final decision of the parents, but we have something that not most school districts have. We as a whole offer three high schools that play well for each student-athlete. We have Cicely L. Tyson School of Performing Arts for our more artistically gifted students. We also have East Orange S.T.E.M Academy for our more academically gifted students, and of course, we have East Orange Campus High School which serves as our base for our high school students.”
Oliver went on to explain that although state championships are a goal, he is ready to do something that no other urban public high school football program has yet to do in the state of New Jersey: win a national high school football championship and become the model for other programs to follow. “East Orange has had some outstanding teams throughout the decades,” he said, “and I am excited to bring that pride back and become the powerhouse that we are primed to be.”
Coach Oliver is not only looking on the field for his program, but he’s also garnering off-the-field prospects for his players as well. “It is definitely a community effort for our students, and we want our kids to see the necessary opportunities that are out there for them to grow into.” He wants to see his players and students alike to make it in life. “If they are lucky enough to get to the pros, then that is an extra carrot worth dangling in front of them.”
He recently had 2012 East Orange Campus graduate and former player Rasul Douglas stop by to talk to his squad. Douglas is a recent third round draft pick for the Philadelphia Eagles as a defensive back. Douglas actually told a little of his story of how he spent nights rationing his food when he went to play and attend college at New Rochelle Junior College before getting a full scholarship to West Virginia University. “We look forward to supporting him and his endeavors” said Oliver as he teased his players about not missing the bus to go see the Eagles play.
East Orange Campus will open camp after the mandatory 10-day statewide blackout which started this past Monday, July 31. The Jaguars will kick off the regular season at home against Memorial of West New York on Friday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m. at Paul Robeson Stadium.
Sept. 8, Memorial of West New York, 7 p.m. (H)
Sept. 15, Columbia, 7 p.m. (A)
Sept. 22, Livingston, 7 p.m. (A)
Sept. 28, Paterson Kennedy, 7 p.m. (H)
Oct. 7, Montclair, 1 p.m. (H)
Oct. 21, Bloomfield, 1 p.m. (A)
Oct. 26, Morristown, 7 p.m. (A)
Nov. 11, West Orange, 7 p.m. (H)
Nov. 23, Barringer, 11 a.m. (H)
Photo 1: East Orange Panthers President and Head Coach Tyrone Miles (center) looks on while the Jaguars work on blocking techniques. Photo by Kerry E. Porter.
Photo 2: Jaguar players huddle around Head Coach Rae Oliver as they concluded Linemen drills during a recent light workout. Photo by Kerry E. Porter.