Brandon Harris is a Pitman High original.
When the school opened in August 2002 he was there, ready to serve as the offensive coordinator of Turlock’s newest football program. During that time he helped lead the Pride to back-to-back Central California Conference championships in their first two years in the league. In 2006 he took over as head coach and continued a tradition of success; going 53-23, completing seven winning seasons, and making it to the CIF playoffs five times over a seven year span.
His raspy voice and intensity for the game were mainstays on Pitman’s sideline every Friday night. But next season will be different because for the first time in school history Harris will not be coaching the Pride. Instead, he will assume head coaching duties for the Columbia High Wildcats in Idaho.
“It was the toughest decision ever,” Harris said of his departure. “I’ve put my whole heart and soul into this place since it opened.”
Although Harris’ decision to leave might have been tough, it was preceded by what was likely the easiest decision of his life—to go back to Idaho and help care for his cancer stricken mother Deana.
Harris learned of his mother’s plight only four months ago at the beginning of the football season. Multiple surgeries later and with treatments looming, accepting Saturday’s offer from Columbia— a school 15 minutes from his mother’s home—was a no brainer.
“It’s nothing to do with football or teaching. It’s a move to help her out as she gets her treatment and back on the road to recovery,” Harris said. “If it was just about teaching and football, I’d never leave; it’s perfect for me here.”
Without question news of Harris’ departure was a blow to the Pride, a loss compounded by last season’s successful performance that saw Pitman miss the semi-finals of the CIF Division I playoffs by a mere point. Still, regardless of the loss to the program, Harris’ players and colleagues stand by his decision whole heartedly.
“We always talk about family in our program so they understand,” Harris said. “The machine will keep on rolling without me.”
That machine, complete with nine returners on offense and seven returners on defense, is the reason Harris’ choice to leave was a difficult one.
“It’s a team that has a chance to be really special and that doesn’t make it any easier to leave,” Harris said. “Every year we’ve taken another step, and this year we were one yard away from knocking off Oakridge, so I still wanted that Section title.”
“But I’m happy with what we’ve done with the kids individually,” he added.
Even though he will be gone next season Harris will still carry a bit of Pitman Pride with him as he brings the system that made the green and silver so successful to the Wildcats. As for his legacy in Turlock, he will always be remembered by at least 13 families who saw their sons go from playing high school ball under his tutelage to playing at the collegiate level, and, in the case of Colin Kaepernick, the NFL.