Navorro Bowman enjoyed one final game on his home field. After missing most of his senior season because of a right shoulder injury that will require surgery, Suitland's All-Met linebacker returned for the regular season finale and helped his team win a game that clinched a playoff berth.
Standing on the field as most of his teammates went to the locker room and the last few fans straggled toward the stadium exit, Bowman did not want to leave. Although Bowman gave no guarantee about playing Saturday against Douglass in the Maryland 4A South Region semifinals, listening him talk it was clear that he has more than an itch to put on his pads at least one more time. It was in a 28-0 loss to Douglass on Sept. 17 that Bowman was injured.
"It wouldn't be smart to play [this] week," Bowman said. "I have a future. But this is what got me to the future. I want to leave on a good note. This is not a bad note. But the team we have to play in the first round is something personal."
Bowman is not the only impact player returning late in the season for a playoff-bound team. Douglass got a boost last week with the return of Syracuse-bound defensive back Matt Reid from a bruised thigh. Standout basketball player Bobby Shannon, who joined Potomac's team two weeks ago after becoming academically eligible, has given the Wolverines a receiving threat.
Eleanor Roosevelt also is coping with a series of injuries to key players. Coach Rick Houchens is hopeful that senior Nico Scott will be able to play safety with a broken hand that has kept him out for two games. There is no chance that Scott can play quarterback, Houchens said, meaning the Raiders will turn to freshman Mike Thomas for his first varsity start Saturday when they play at C.H. Flowers in the other 4A South semifinal.
"It's amazing right now," Houchens said. "We've had to shuffle things back and forth just to be able to line up and play. When you have injuries to key guys, it's football, and you have to be blessed enough to have other guys to step in. Our kids have done a good job, but there is no substitute for experience."
Running back Mike Avent returned from a broken thumb last week and Houchens also hopes to have running back Jeff Harrison back this week.
It will take a massive effort for any of those players to make the same impact as Bowman did for Suitland. With their star player injured, the Rams were on the verge of not qualifying for the postseason. Bowman gave Suitland a threat out of the backfield, forced opposing offenses to game plan for him and gave his teammates a shot of confidence.
"Even in practice this week, just having him out there, [other players] were pumped up," Suitland Coach Nick Lynch said after Suitland's 30-7 victory over Bowie earned a playoff berth.
Bowman acknowledged he could tell the difference in his teammates' play, but tried to downplay the situation.
"They could have done it without me," Bowman said. "Yeah, I was a big part of the team. But it's not a one-man team."
Bowman said he will have to discuss his playing status with his parents this week. If Bowman has his way, he will be on the field Saturday against Douglass (10-0), which won the Prince George's 4A title in its first season after moving up from the 3A/2A league.
"With them being the new team coming into this league and me being hurt -- they're a good team, don't get me wrong -- but to be the best you've got to beat the best and I'm one of the best," Bowman said. "If they get a full game out of me, I will congratulate them if they win. Until then, we're still the champs."
Douglass Coach J.C. Pinkney said: "The heartbeat of their team is Navorro. He's a special football player. You can tell their whole squad looks up to him and they feed off his energy. Of course you're going to have to account for him. "
Another player that figures to make a difference during the postseason is Shannon, a 6-foot-5 forward who was a second-team All-Met in basketball last season. Potomac Coach Eric Knight said he unsuccessfully tried to get Shannon out for three seasons before finally coaxing the player to come out for the final weeks this season.
In two games, four of Shannon's five catches have resulted in touchdowns, giving him the team lead in touchdown receptions.
"He told me last week that he should have tried this a long time ago," Knight said. "It's something we definitely needed in our receiving corps. There may be some receivers upset their playing time has been cut, because he starts. But it's for the best of the team.."