When he got to the bench, he took off his helmet and right shoe and two trainers massaged his lower leg. A young boy stood behind him and rubbed his shoulder pads, and even an assistant coach came over with his headset on and helped stretch Bowens for five minutes.
Bowens was being treated like a prince, and deservingly so.
He wasn’t nominated for Homecoming king at the school’s festivities Friday night. But on a field that was dotted with college prospects left and right, Bowens played like royalty, rushing for 243 yards and a touchdown to lift Huntingtown to a 42-35 win.
“Gutsy effort,” Huntingtown Coach Brendan Galligan said. “They jumped on us early, they threw the first punch, and our guys were able to come right back. . . We were able to control the line of scrimmage.”
The game was billed as a heavyweight bout between unbeatens in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, and it lived up to the hype.
Bowens was sensational for Huntingtown (7-0, 6-0), and the crowd knew it was witnessing a memorable performance from the moment he went untouched up the middle in the first quarter, a 55-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 7-7.
“Every time I touch the ball, I’m not looking to score,” Bowens said. “I’m looking to fight for any yards that I can get.”
Bowens was limping for most of the night. The calf muscles in his right leg were tightening, but he refused to come out of the game. Seven of his 28 carries went for 10 or more yards.
Three of those scampers went for more than 20 yards.
Part of the motivation was trying to outduel Patuxent’s standout quarterback, Trey Lee, who amassed more than 300 yards of total offense and kept the Panthers (6-1, 4-1) in the game.
After Huntingtown made it 14-7 on quarterback Zach Piazza’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Brian Kelly early in the second quarter, Lee rushed for 53 yards on the next possession and capped the drive with a gritty 28-yard quarterback draw up the middle for a touchdown.
Piazza used play-action for his next score a few minutes later, throwing a 56-yard touchdown to Bryan Rawlings, but Lee came back immediately — he returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-20 right before the half.
But Bowens was too much in the second half. His combination of physicality and speed wore down Patuxent, and Piazza found Rawlings for two more touchdowns in the third quarter, the second one coming after a fumble. Piazza then sealed it with a nine-yard touchdown run with about six minutes left.
As his teammates celebrated the touchdown, Bowens watched from the bench, then defiantly put his cleats and helmet back on. He didn’t want to miss the win in any way, so he went back into the game for two more plays.
“I was tightening up,” said Bowens. “I couldn’t do it without them. When I score, they score.”