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Cherokee High School football coach P.J. Mehigan resigns after 13 years

The highly respected coach led the Chiefs to five South Jersey titles in his 13 seasons at his alma mater.

Cherokee high school coach P. J. Mehigan is stepping down after 13 seasons.
Cherokee high school coach P. J. Mehigan is stepping down after 13 seasons.Read moreClem Murray/Staff Photographer

P.J. Mehigan has resigned after 13 seasons as Cherokee's football coach.

Mehigan, 44, who compiled a 135-41 record with five South Jersey titles, said he wanted to spent more time watching his kids participate in sports in the fall.

"They grew up sitting on the hill watching me coach," Mehigan said of the rise above Cherokee's football field. "Now it's time for me to sit in the bleachers and watch their games."

Mehigan has a son who is a sophomore at Seneca, a daughter who is a freshman at Seneca and a daughter in middle school. All three participate in sports.

"It was easy when they were in rec because that's nights and weekends," Mehigan said. "But in high school, it's after school and I found myself texting my wife during practices, seeing how they are doing.

"I was trying to do a little bit of both and I wound up not doing either right. I left practice a few times a little early to try to catch one of their games and that wasn't right.

"I always asking our kids, our players, to be fully committed and here I was leaving practice early. That didn't feel right."

Mehigan was a standout linebacker at Cherokee and Rowan University. He joined the Cherokee staff as an assistant in 1996 and became the head coach in 2002.

"I was so lucky because I was young enough when I got the job that I was able to focus on it and mot miss much," Mehigan said.

Mehigan's teams won South Jersey titles in 2005, 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014. His team also lost in the South Jersey finals in 2006.

Mehigan's team in 2010 went 12-0. The Chiefs were 7-3 in 2017.

"When I was telling the kids (of his decision), I was reflecting on things," Mehigan said. "I was telling them, its not the scores or the wins that you remember, it's the players and the coaches.

"I've been so lucky, I've had so many great coaches and players at Cherokee."

Mehigan called Cherokee his "dream job" but said he was determined to step away while his children still were living at home and participating in activities.

"I was telling my wife, I'd rather leave a couple of years too early than a couple of years too late," Mehigan said. "I know my kids are going to be gone before I know it and I'll regret it if I don't spent as much time as I can with them."

Mehigan said he still hoped to "talk football" with people but had no intention of joining another coach's staff as an assistant.

He wouldn't rule out returning to the sideline in the future, perhaps when his children are older.

"My wife thinks I will," Mehigan said. "But I can't say for sure. I just know I was very lucky to have this job, to get it as young as I did and to have had the opportunity to do both for a long time."