Dave Cord, who led Ridgewood to a regional title in 2019 in an interim role, was approved as new head football coach at Northern Highlands Monday night.
“I have not applied for many jobs over the years, but this was one that jumped off the page,” said Cord, 32. “It came down to the people I trust. I trust the administration there. They are building up the program the right way and I know they are going to support the football coach.”
Cord took over the Maroons midway through the 2019 season for an ailing Chuck Johnson. He then coached the Maroons during the COVID-ravaged 2020 season, leading them to a 4-4 mark. When Johnson returned in 2021, Cord had a chance to stay with the Maroons, but began teaching and coaching in Tenafly with his close friend Peter Toale.
It’s not every day that a coach with a regional title is on the market, and that boosted his confidence in accepting the Northern Highlands job.
“I remember I took over, we were undefeated and then we went 1-2,” laughed Cord. “After we lost to Hackensack, I told the boys that all I know how to do is go back to work. Then we had those next magical four weeks where we beat Bayonne, Westfield, Passaic Tech and then Union. I know I can compete at the highest level.”
Northern Highlands emerged as a powerhouse North Jersey public school program under coach Greg Russo, winning sectional titles in 2021 and 2019. Russo departed at the end of the season to take over his alma mater, Paramus Catholic.
Russo leaves big shoes to fill, but Cord has some experience taking over strong programs.
“I have nothing but respect for Greg and the job he did here,” Cord said. “I coached against him in 2020 and it was fun. They played a good brand of football. My job is to keep that going.”
Cord is a Westwood graduate who played on the Cardinals' 2006 sectional championship team. He went on to Rowan, where he got his degree in health and exercise science and certification as a special education teacher.
Cord will continue to work in Tenafly, but is hoping to get a teaching spot at Northern Highlands if one becomes available. He plans on meeting with players Tuesday and parents on Wednesday. He’s already begun making calls to build his staff and introduce himself to junior football coaches.
“The message to the kids is that we expect to continue to compete at the highest level,” Cord said. “I am coming in with a plan and I hope they are ready to work.”
Cord said that the Highlanders will not run the Wing-T, a Ridgewoood hallmark, but that he will keep some of those concepts in his back pocket. He wants to make Northern Highlands his home for the next decade or more.
“I feel like this is a place I can be successful,” Cord said. “My goal here is that they have established a nice program and I don’t need to reset it, but I will put my imprint on it.”
Darren Cooper is a high school sports columnist for NorthJersey.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis from our Varsity Aces team, subscribe today. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter and download our app.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Northern Highlands NJ football: Dave Cord hired as new coach