Back in November, Vance High’s football team went to Myers Park and escaped with a wild 41-38 overtime victory in the second round of the N.C. 4AA playoffs.
Vance coach Aaron Brand said one of the reasons his Cougars had such a tough time was they couldn’t really contain Myers Park sophomore wide receiver Elijah Bowick.
Bowick caught a 28-yard touchdown pass and kept hurting Vance by grabbing footballs out of the air and extending drives.
“Man, he’s going to be very good,” Brand said. “He’s got a couple of things to work on – but being, big, strong and tough aren’t any of them. ... I’d say the sky is the limit for this kid. I think he’s a super talent.”
Bowick, who is 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, grew up playing in Charlotte’s Hammer Down football organization, run by former South Meck High All-American Roger Purgason, who later played at North Carolina. That organization features former NFL players such as Dre Bly (Rams, Broncos, 49ers) and Deems May (Seahawks, Chargers).
And when Bowick got to high school two years ago as a freshman, he was ready to go.
“He broke his thumb the first week of practice,” Myers Park coach Scott Chadwick said, “so he couldn’t catch a ball. We put him at safety on (junior varsity) and, my gosh, he was just killing people.”
When the cast came off, Bowick really shined. In two JV games his freshman season, Bowick ran back three punts for touchdowns and caught two touchdown passes. When Myers Park had a varsity receiver get injured, Chadwick moved Bowick to up.
His first game wasn’t too bad. He caught three passes, one for a touchdown, in a 24-10 victory over Union County’s Porter Ridge High.
“He never played a down of JV after that,” Chadwick said.
Last season, as a sophomore, Bowick continued his stellar play, catching 67 passes for 1,190 yards and 19 touchdowns, both school records. The touchdown receptions tie for the eighth-most in Mecklenburg County history.
He seemed to get better every week.
In September, Bowick caught six passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns against Rocky River. In October, he caught eight passes for 170 yards and a school-record five touchdowns against Independence. And in November, he frustrated N.C. 4AA power Vance and Brand, one of the region’s top coaches.
“It’s nice knowing that the hard work is paying off. That’s just great,” Bowick said last week. “I’m having fun doing it, too.”
So far, Bowick, 16, has seven scholarship offers – from Duke, Louisville, Maryland, N.C. State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Myers Park coach Scott Chadwick said Clemson and North Carolina are very interested. And Bowick carries a 3.3 GPA at an academically rigorous school.
“Look,” Chadwick said, “we’re talking about a tremendous young man. He’s humble, quiet. He’s an extremely great representative of our program – in the classroom with how he conducts himself there and on the field. He’s extremely well-liked by his peers.”
Bowick was a key piece on a special Mustangs team in 2016. Myers Park finished 11-2, the most wins for the Mustangs since 1983, and hosted a playoff game for the first time in 12 years.
“He’s the best receiver I’ve ever coached,” said Chadwick, who just finished with 18th season and his third at Myers Park. “At Marvin Ridge (High in Union County), I coached K.J. Brent (who played at South Carolina and Wake Forest) and he was on the Raiders’ practice squad last year. K.J. had the best hands of any kid I had coached, but Elijah has a better ability make things happen with the ball in his hands.”
Bowick, after the catch, can turn into a big running back, stiff arming some tacklers and running past others, Chadwick said. He’s big enough to confidently go across the middle and fast enough to go deep.
“He beats people in so many different ways, you can’t figure out a way to defend him,” Chadwick said. “He can go up and catch the fade on on the goal line, or he can use his size to ‘wall off’ defenders. He took three or four (short) passes this year and took them the distance.
“He really doesn’t have a way he cannot be effective as a receiver.”
Chadwick said he also loves Bowick’s work ethic. Bowick said he lifts weights every day for at least 90 minutes, and he works on routes almost every day, often pulling in teammates to hit the field with him.
“I’m diverse,” Bowick said. “If I need to go through the middle, I can go. Running screens? I can get off tackle and I won’t go down easy. If I have to go get the ball, I go get it. I like contact. Football is physical and I want to be just as physical as the defense.”
Bowick’s mission? Be memorable.
“The next two years, I want to get better,” he said. “I want to be remembered – for what I did here around the school, on the field, for other people. I want to be remembered for being a good teammate. I want to (better) my stats every year. But mainly, man, I just want to win.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr
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