“Are you good?” Smith would ask the senior during a brief break in action.
Between heavy breaths and after taking several swigs of water, Rowe would simply answer “I’m good, Coach,” before heading back to the field.
The brief conversation mostly served as a formality for the two. Coming off the field is never an option for Rowe, whose competitive spirit and array of abilities has turned him into one of the area’s top playmakers.
This much was clear in O’Connell’s 61-36 win against McNamara in Saturday’s regular-season finale. Rowe played every snap, catching four passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns, rushing seven times for 119 yards and one score and returning a kickoff 98 yards for another touchdown.
“I get tired sometimes, but I keep pushing myself,” said Rowe, who has lined up at wide receiver, running back, quarterback, safety, cornerback, punt/kick returner and on special teams coverage this season. “But I never want to come out because if I did and a big play would happen, I’d feel like it’s my fault. And on offense, I always want to make plays and score anytime I get the ball.”
Rowe finished with 681 receiving yards, 251 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns in leading the Knights to a 5-5 record for a second straight year. Though O’Connell missed out on making the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference playoffs by one win, the team’s record marked the first time since 1994-95 that the Knights did not have consecutive losing seasons.
“Honestly, it might have hurt us in some capacities relying on him so much because you could tell in the fourth quarter that he wasn’t the same athlete. But he always finds ways to be effective,” said Smith, who just completed his second year as the Knights coach after stints at Wagner and Bridgewater College. “One of the things you can’t see on film is how competitive he is by nature. Whether it be collegiately or in high school, he’s one of the most competitive players I’ve been around.”
Part of this attitude stems from Rowe’s 5-foot-9 stature. Knowing that many will underestimate him at first glance, Rowe said he plays with a chip on his shoulder, always looking to prove his mettle on every snap.
That’s probably why when asked what his favorite highlights of the season are, two of his three answers include making critical defensive stops against McNamara’s Jordan Crockett and Gonzaga’s Jabari Greenwood, two of the WCAC’s top receivers.
“I might be little, but I have strong legs,” Rowe said. “That’s why I’m able to break through tackles and make plays.”
When Boston College recruit and starting RB/DB Kamrin Moore went down with a season-ending knee injury in a win against Carroll, Rowe saw his role increase even more in the backfield. With teams keying in on Rowe and the Knights just entering their tough WCAC slate, the senior saw his production drop. Still, Rowe’s presence helped the Knights build a halftime lead against top-ranked DeMatha and battle No. 18 St. John’s until the final quarter.
“We tried to get better every game, but when Kam went down, that really hurt us, so I tried to put the team on my back and do all I could,” Rowe said. “We were down two safeties so I had to move from cornerback to safety and then with Kam down, I moved from playing mostly wide receiver to playing more running back…until the last game.”
Rowe’s impressive performance in his final game at O’Connell should serve him well as he considers playing at the next level. Along with garnering interest from Iowa Western (the defending junior college football champs), Smith is exploring the senior’s options of earning a spot at Akron, East Carolina or Marshall.
“He has an uncanny ability to make people miss, and he’s equally good at every position he plays,” Smith said. “So, wherever he ends up, they are really getting three players in one way. He’s been a valuable part of our football team.”
NUMBER CRUNCH: 4
City titles won by Flint Hill’s volleyball team in the last five years following Monday’s sweep of Holy Cross.
VIDEO OF THE DAY
Check out the top plays from the week that was in the area’s football action.
-Take a look at who made the cut for this week’s All-Met Watch in football.
-Thanks to an overtime goal by Alex Yokley on Monday, Wootton advanced to its first Maryland 4A state field hockey title game, where it will face Severna Park.
-Fueled by a bet with her mom, Lauren Schaaf scored three goals on Monday to help Mount Hebron advance to the Maryland 3A state field hockey final.
–Michelle Bucher and Milan Graves clinched the WCAC girls’ tennis title for St. John’s with their doubles win on Monday.
–Wootton’s Sam Ellis passed for what, if confirmed, would be a Maryland state record 541 yards last week, breaking a mark set the prior week by Rockville’s Chuck Reese.
–Forestville and Bowie are two of several Prince George’s County football teams jockeying for playoff position entering the final week of the regular season.
–Flint Hill overcame a slow start to repeat as MAC football champs and earn a spot in the VISAA playoffs.
–Hayfield kept its playoff football chances alive by rallying from a 20-point deficit to beat Falls Church last week.
-South River wide receiver James Smith has a chance to move into the top-10 for all-time career receiving yards among Maryland public schools.
-A late goal-line stand for the second consecutive week helped Huntingtown secure the top spot in the Maryland 3A South region football playoffs.
-Highly touted Stonewall Jackson defensive lineman Tim Settle turned a rare carry into a two-point conversion in last week’s win against Osbourn Park.
–Woodgrove workhorse running back Josh Sweet carried the ball 48 times in a narrow win against Broad Run on Friday.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY
Field Hockey: No. 4 South County at No. 3 Westfield, 7 p.m.
Westfield looks to avenge a season-opening loss to South County with a spot in the state tournament on the line in this 6A North region semifinal.