Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bowen's Last-Minute Switch to QB Makes BC High a True Contender

By Matt Feld (@mattyfeld612)

Coming off a 2016 campaign that saw BC High reach their second south sectional final in three years, expectations for 2017 were at an all-time high.

Highly regarded running back Danny Abraham committed to Harvard in the spring after a flurry of interest across college football, and offensive lineman Tommy Aicardi soon followed suit. Will Bowen had established himself as a two way-threat and Bobby DeMeo developed into one of the more athletic and dynamic defensive backs in Massachusetts. Francis Dooley and Elijah Miranda were set to constitute a veteran and dangerous defensive line.

Yet, in the lead up the 2017 season, the Eagles received disheartening news when starting quarterback Matt Sullivan was sidelined with a back injury that was going to curtail him for at least the regular season.

The preseason played out with BC High coach John Bartlett exploring a number of options, but none of them appeared serviceable enough to make the Eagles a legitimate contender in Division 1.

Just a week prior to the Eagles opener versus Andover, and on the verge of not having a quarterback, Bowen approached Bartlett and offered to take on the reigns.

The senior captain was a stranger to the position, with no experience throwing the ball at such a high level.

Nevertheless, Bartlett obliged to Bowen’s request, and the move has put the Eagles back on top in the Catholic Conference.

Throughout his childhood, Bowen’s athletic interests varied.

Originally, he saw himself as having a future career in basketball, only for a knee injury in sixth grade to permanently end that hope before it got off the ground.

Football and lacrosse quickly filled most of Bowen’s schedule with him finding a love for the former, while become an exceptional talent in the latter.

NCAA rules influence collegiate lacrosse programs across the country to recruit their future stars at a young age, and Bowen was able to take full advantage.

Prior to his freshman season as a member of the Eagles’ lacrosse team, the defenseman committed to the University of North Carolina, one of the top lacrosse programs in the country.

Despite the early decision, Bowen has never once considered dropping football prior to his graduation from high school. Tar Heels’ lacrosse head coach Joe Breschi stressed the importance and value of multi-sport athletes to Bowen, allowing him to continue one of the original childhood passions.

While in his youth, Bowen played running back and full back for the SciCoh Sharks - a youth football league based out of Scituate.

“Honestly, football was my thing well before lacrosse,” Bowen recalled. “I always loved football growing up.”

Bowen played quarterback in eighth and ninth grade, but was often at odds with the position. Always possessing an athletic build, Bowen found greater enjoyment in the physical aspect of the game. He routinely expressed his limitations when it came to any sort of passing ability, preferring instead to tuck the football and take off.

“I played quarterback in eighth and ninth grade, but never really grew comfortable there,” Bowen said of the quarterback spot. “I was filling in a role then that our team needed to be filled, and I couldn’t throw the football for the life of me.”

His desire to play both in the backfield and up front on the defensive side of the ball was perfect for BC High in 2016.

With a speedster in Connor Cady at quarterback and the agile Abraham at tailback, the junior became the perfect complement to keep opposing teams on edge.

Still, his presence largely flew under the radar due to the Eagles prioritization on getting Cady and Abraham as many touches on the ground as possible.

One year later, that problem no longer exists.

Bowen has emerged as one of the more explosive threats, not just in the Catholic Conference, but also across the Bay State.

In each of BC High’s first six games, the Eagles have accumulated at least 200 yards on the ground. Against Andover and Malden Catholic it was Abraham who took the reigns, rushing for over 280 yards and four touchdowns in both contests.

Bowen then took the spotlight in the Eagles’ showdowns with Hudson Catholic (N.J.) and Marshfield, where he ran for over 130 yards in each game, and combined for five scores.

As a passer, meanwhile, Bowen has shown steady signs of improvement.

He threw for a pair of touchdown in the Eagles’ trip to New Jersey, and came through with a game-clinching completion in BC High’s most recent contest against conference rival St. John’s Prep.

Bartlett lauded Bowen’s precision from under center.

“For a kid who has not played the position in three or four years, his accuracy is very impressive,” Bartlett said. “The running and power game is his main thing, but the passing ability is what has impressed me.”

At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Bowen is an intimidating figure for most defensive front sevens. His size gives him to power up the middle out of shotgun, while his agility and athleticism allow him to slip away from, and even hurdle, defenders in the open field off of the read option.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is the fact that the move of Bowen to quarterback has allowed the Eagles to present opponents with contrasting playmakers, all while accomplishing the same goal of wearing them down via the ground game.

“Most of my runs are coming out of read option plays, as opposed to having a designated path to follow pre-snap as a running back,” Bowen said. “I’ve found it to be a lot more enjoyable and effective.”

Personality characteristics in a quarterback are often unique. Bartlett highlighted the fact that Bowen commandeers them all.

“Will really took on that leadership role,” Bartlett said. “Stepping up and coming right into the position and playing well really was impressive and has set the tone.”

He quickly generated respect and confidence from his teammates. Coaches and teachers often rave about how well spoken he is inside and out of the classroom.

Despite his emergence as a force on the football field, Bowen is maintaining his commitment to play lacrosse at the University of North Carolina.

The decision has been far from easy. He received offers last spring from Brown, Army West Point, and the United States Naval Academy – which, due to family connections, hit particularly close to home.

Still, the lacrosse standout is determined to reciprocate the loyalty that the Tar Heels showed in him now nearly three years ago, and is looking forward to continuing on the path where he has excelled the most.

But before he takes off for North Carolina, Bowen is hoping to steward BC High to its first state championship since 2011. So far he has the Eagles on the right track. At 6-0 the Eagles are off to their best start in nearly a decade, and are on pace to control home field advantage throughout the Division 1 South playoffs.

“This is something we’ve worked towards for a long while now, and it’s great to see the product coming to form on the field,” Bowen said. “We have an end goal that we are hungry to meet and we’re going to keep working towards that.”

Now at the halfway point of the season, Bowen knows the end of his football career is near, but he is not quite ready to admit it.

“I still don’t know how I am going to give it up,” Bowen acknowledges.

Luckily for him, due in large part to his newfound success at quarterback, Bowen is unlikely to face that fact for several more weeks.

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