Bowman says he’s near full strength for Lyco

Keeghan Morrison threw the first block to spring Blake Bow­man to the sideline. Brock Zollicoffer followed the Lycoming running back to the end zone and made sure nobody on the Lebanon Valley defense caught him from behind.

Bowman sure didn’t look like a player hobbled by a sprained ankle when he broke off a 57-yard touchdown run in last week’s win over Lebanon Valley. But for the past three games, the senior captain has dealt with a sprained ankle which nearly caused him to miss one game, as well as taking reduced carries in the other.

Bowman isn’t one to acknowledge there’s an issue. Re­luctantly he’ll tell you the last few weeks have been frus­trating. But very reluctantly. He’s not one to complain, he just wants to win football games.

After injuring his ankle when it was rolled up on by a linebacker during the Widener game some four weeks ago, he looked to be back to his old self with that long touchdown run a week ago which helped the Warriors snap a two-game losing streak. He still won’t be quite 100 percent for this afternoon’s game at 1 at Wilkes, but he said earlier this week he feels as good as he has since injuring it.

“I had a lot of rest during the bye week. A lot of rest,” Bowman said. “It bothers me to not be able to help the team.”

Bowman has averaged just 12 carries per game over the last three games since hurting his ankle. And that number is skewed by the 19 he had against Widener when he continued to play after hurting his ankle. Bowman carried just 10 times for 31 yards with a long of 8 yards against FDU. Last week, he gained 93 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries, including the long touchdown run.

Prior to the injury, he was averaging more than 23 carries per game and had run for more than 100 yards in three of the Warriors’ first four games of the season, including 164 in the season-opener against Susquehanna. Frustrating was the word Bowman used this week when describing what will be the Tri-Valley graduate’s final season of football.

“He’s a really good player and a physically tough kid,” Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. “He realizes, unfortunately, that he only has three games left. So he’s going to keep fighting and doing the things he’s capable of. For kids like Blake, who are really hardcore kids and football is really important to, he’s going to do everything he can to be out there as much as he can.”

Clark looks back on the FDU game and wonders in hindsight if playing Bowman that day was potentially a mistake. They never thought he was going to be ready for the game in the first place. He didn’t practice all week leading into the game, but visited the trainer twice a day for rehabilitation. He also did extra therapy work at home each night.

Clark and the other offensive coaches have been able to limit some of Bowman’s usage during games by designing play packages specifically to be used with running backs Sam Dressler and Dante Gipson. But now Dressler is dealing with an hamstring injury.

Gipson got the most carries in last week’s game, carrying 13 times for 35 yards. But when it came down to crunch time and Lycoming needed a score late in the fourth quarter to overcome a four-point deficit, Bowman was the one in the game.

Bowman picked up a big first down on that final drive, pushing the Warriors deep into Flying Dutchmen territory with a 12-yard run. One play later, receiver Nick Costello made a superb catch on the sideline and finished off a 34-yard scoring pass to give Lycoming the win.

Clark didn’t hesitate to say should the Warriors be in a position this week to win the game late against Wilkes, he will once again look to Bowman. He is, after all, the seventh-leading rusher in the history of Lycoming football. He is, after all, still leading the Middle Atlantic Conference in rushing yards at nearly 100 per game. And he does have the third-highest yards per carry average in school history.

So bum ankle or no bum ankle, Clark knows he can count on Bowman when it truly matters.

“We don’t use him as a decoy. He’s still our best tailback,” Clark said. “It was nice to get some carries to other people the last couple weeks, but if you look at who played more series (against Lebanon Valley), Blake still had more snaps. Blake is our best pass protector and is still a really good receiver and a really good ballcarrier.”

“I don’t limit myself at all. I just go with whatever plays are called and go with that,” Bowman said. “If it’s up to me, I’ll be out there. I just want to win. I just want to see wins for Lyco.”