XENIA — In less than two years, Maurice Harden has turned the Xenia football team into a southwest Ohio power that ranked highly in the state.
At 8-0, the Buccaneers are the number two team in the Division II, Region 8 computer rankings, which determine playoff teams and matchups, and No. 4 in the Associated Press Division II state poll.
It has taken a little longer, but Harden has done the same thing with the Greene County Career Center’s sports and exercise science program.
When accepting the position at GCCC six years ago, he was tasked with building the class and curriculum from scratch. What started as a class of 12 students, has grown into a class of 50.
And the wait list is ever-growing.
“Harden, or ‘Coach’ is an outstanding role model for students both in the classroom and on the field, and we like to see our staff members demonstrating service to our communities,” said Greene County Career Center School Board President Gene Taylor.
The career center and Xenia Community Schools have for a long time fostered a positive relationship for many years, allowing the students to thrive between the two.
Example: At the start of the year, Xenia cheerleader and GCCC student Ashlynn Knowles made Harden a bracelet, a tradition that has become a symbol of success on game nights.
“That first week she gave me a bracelet with a quote on it, then I told her I’m going to need one for every game,” Harden said.
Harden has led his team to victory eight weeks (and eight bracelets) in a row based on several pillars including: Accountability, perseverance, and being present.
“I tell the players to be where their feet are. Lock in every day and be the best version of yourself,” Harden said. “My goal as the head coach is not only to build great football players but good people. The fact that we can represent their school and their community in the best light gives me a lot of joy.”
Those are likely the same traits he instills in his students.
“Mr. Harden inspires and engages students in a powerful way in our classroom, so it is no surprise that this energy and enthusiasm is carried onto the football field with our partner school district at Xenia,” said Superintendent David Deskins.
Xenia schools and GCCC have been a source of encouragement for the team, according to Harden.
“I give credit to our school culture and administration,” he said. “I think the teachers at GCCC do a great job of providing a great experience for our students and are committed to helping them be successful, and I’m blessed to be a part of that.”
The Bucs host West Carrollton tonight with a chance to go 9-0 for the first time in more than 100 years.
A long-time record is about to be eclipsed in a short time.