By Brian Dzenis
It took Lynn Bowden some time to believe what his uncle had seen.
Fred Southerland, Bowden’s uncle, used to coach the Warren Harding quarterback as a child and told him he had an extra motor. If he combined that with the patience to wait and see holes open up, he can really take off.
Now a senior in high school, Bowden’s speed has a way of slowing down the game. He seems to stop on a dime and take off in a different direction, leaving defenders looking helpless.
That skill set has Harding playing for a regional title tonight and has Bowden nominated for Mr. Football.
“He used to tell me as kid and I never believed him until a couple years ago,” Bowden said. “He told me ‘you have an extra motor. After halftime you pick it up and everyone seems to get slow.’ I’m starting to see that in games and that’s my motivation, to help my team go and we all pick it up.”
Should he win Ohio’s Mr. Football title, Bowden will become the Mahoning Valley’s third Mr. Football. The others were Ursuline’s Akise Teague (2010) and Harding’s Maurice Clarett (2001).
Bowden also was named the Northeast Ohio Inland Offensive Player of the Year for Division II, making him one of four area players to get Player of the Year Honors.
Warren JFK’s Evan Boyd was the Div. VII Offensive Player of the Year and Struthers’ A.J. Musolino and Howland’s Victor Williams were Defensive Players in Div. IV and III, respectively.
While Bowden was happy for the nomination, it takes a back seat to tonight.
“It feels good, but there’s a bigger picture than just winning a self-award. I want the team award, I want to bring a ring home,” Bowden said. “I really put it off to the side. If I start worrying about it, I’ll get sidetracked.
“I got sidetracked last year and we came up short and I regret that.”
Musolino was a factor in all three phases of the game for the Wildcats. He was the quarterback, safety and punter as Struthers went 9-2, breaking a two-year playoff skid.
“I did what my team needed me to do, that’s it,” Musolino said. “Coach [Curt] Kuntz told me he needed me to punt and I would punt. He tells me to play quarterback and I play quarterback. I would do anything just to win.”
Musolino, a Kent State commit, recorded 77 tackles, including five for a loss, two interceptions and five forced fumbles. He also compiled 1,810 all-purpose yards and 25 touchdowns. He started his football career as a quarterback — earning his first college offers there— but he took on the other two positions with no complaints, leaving an impression on his coach.
“I think the legacy that he’ll leave with us is when you’re the best player in the area and you’re willing to play on the scout team in practice on offense or defense or willing to fill up the water bottles and do those things,” Kuntz said. “Nobody is better than him so if he’s doing it, they should be doing it too.”
Kuntz was named Coach of the Year for a campaign that saw the Wildcats win its first share of a conference title in 20 years. He’s a different coach from his last nine win season in 2013. Winning seasons don’t necessarily make for more kids in a program or continued success the following year.
“My second year, we won nine games and I thought ‘now it gets easier.’ It doesn’t. It’s great for the community and student body, but the game still comes down to relationships and individual relationships with young kids and that doesn’t happen by accident,” Kuntz said. “You have to be around the kids. The coaches have to be around the kids and you have to know them and what makes all of them tick.”
Offensive lineman Adam Sedzmak and A.J. Iarussi each were first-teamers on the all-district team.
Williams spent most of his career flying under the radar because Howland was not a playoff team until his senior year even though he’s the program’s all-time leader in sacks (51) and tackles (371).
“I think he’s one of the area’s most underrated players for all the success he’s had over the last four years,” Howland coach Dominic Menendez said. “He was very underrated as far as statewide honors go.”
Williams, a Toledo commit, was thrilled to end his high school career in the playoffs. Howland (7-4), went out in the opening round in a 37-0 loss to Akron Hoban.
Boyd, an Eagles running back, joins teammates Bruce Johnson, Justin Bofenkamp, Ryan Lee and Alec Burzynski at All-District first-teamers. Warren JFK (11-1) has the most first-teamers of any school and is facing Norwalk St. Paul for a regional title Saturday night.
Other Div. IV first-teamers include Jackson-Milton’s Nick Scarl and Noah Laster and Sebring’s Nate Martin. Wellsville quarterback-receiver combo of Justin Miller and Michael Shope also earned All-District honors.
Jumping back up to the top of the classifications, Austintown Fitch boasts three first teamers on the defensive side of the ball. Senior captains Bryce Warmouth and J.C. Mikovich are on the roster at defensive line and defensive back, joining Falcons punter Nick DeSalvo.
In addition to Bowden as Player of the Year, Warren Harding’s Marlin Richardson, Taj Harper and Dan Angelo made the All-District team for Div. II. Bowling Green commit Travis Koontz was Boardman’s lone first-teamer.
In Div. III, Howland running back Tyriq Ellis joins Williams on the first team. Canfield is represented by Mason Giordano. Poland kicker Colton McFadden and lineman Drew Davies are on the first team. Two-way star Tyler Srbinovich was the lone representative for Niles.
Div. IV was the classification with the most local players. Cardinal Mooney’s four nominees: Ray Anderson, Jaylen Hewlett, Pat Pelini and Darrell Jackson all made the team on the defensive side of the ball. Ursuline’s Jeff Marx, a Navy commit, made the team. Girard sophomore quarterback Mark Waid made the team, as did his preferred target, Michael Belcik.
West Branch standout lineman and wrestler Ian Sharp is on the team with teammate Cole Pittman. Hubbard running back Raphael Morales, linebacker David Hernandez and lineman Wesley Best are first-teamers. Jake Humeniuk and Will Danklefsen represent Salem and Lakeview, respectively.
In Div. IV, Labrae quarterback-receiver combo Calton Brown and Tariq Drake are first-teamers as well as linebackers J.T. Wolke and Riley McCleary. Nathan Daniszewski and Peyton Remish represent South Range. Campbell’s Yianni Koullias rushed for 1,628 yards and 20 touchdowns to make the first team. East Palestine’s Trevor Kimmel made the team as a defensive lineman.
Columbiana quarterback Mitch Davidson, the Vindicator’s Offensive Player of the Year, made the first team out of Div. VI alongside teammate Keenan Green. Western Reserve’s Wyatt Larimer, Cody Hilles and Jack Cappabianca are on the roster. Senior Ethan Nezbeth and sophomore Zach Stoffer represent Springfield. Lisbon’s Jason Thompson and Colin Sweeney are first teamers. Alex Cintron and Xavier Bailey represent McDonald and Brookfield, respectively.