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Chemistry Lessons

Oct 18, 2017 02:00PM ● Published by Ashley Pape

by EJ Holland

Will Bowers had butterflies in his stomach as he took the field for the first time as the starting quarterback at Southlake Carroll. Bowers opened the game by completing his first pass and threw a touchdown later in the half before tossing two interceptions. However, Bowers rebounded and helped the Dragons knock off Broken Arrow (Okla.), 21-14, by being accurate and consistent.

Overall, Bowers finished 20-of-26 for 258 yards and touchdown and added 35 yards on the ground. It was a performance that Southlake Carroll head coach Hal Wasson was proud of.

“He weathered the storm quite well,” Wasson said. “I thought he did a good job. He made plays with his feet. I believe he completed around 77 percent of his passes. He was accurate. He took some vicious hits and bounced back up. He showed physical and mental toughness.”

The first time Bowers really took the idea of becoming the starting quarterback for Southlake Carroll seriously was back in 2011. That year, Kenny Hill, who is now at TCU, led the Dragons to their eighth state title as he dazzled fans with his arm and legs.

Hill is just one of several great quarterbacks to come out of Southlake Carroll. From Chase Daniel to Greg McElroy to Riley Dodge, the program is known for churning out high-level players at the position.

But Bowers doesn’t see his opportunity as a chance to follow in anyone’s footsteps. He wants to be the best quarterback he can be — plain and simple.

“I try not to think about the tradition,” Bowers said. “I just try to be myself day in and day out. I know there is a lot of surrounding pressure. Some people think I have to be this or that. I just try to be myself and do what I can do.”

And that’s exactly the mindset Wasson has instilled in all of his quarterbacks since he took over as head coach.

Despite having coached a plethora of talented quarterbacks, Wasson never compares them. Instead, he advises quarterbacks to hone their own playing style and create their own identities.

“Play with your personality,” Wasson said. “Have fun with the game. I tell him not to expect to be perfect because you’re going to have to overcome adversity. Always give a great effort.”

Wasson has high expectations for Bowers moving forward and believes he’s in for a breakout season.

“I expect him to be efficient and to be able to distribute the ball,” Wasson said. “He needs to make plays with his feet. He needs to be ready mentally and be a leader. He needs to overcome adversity. There are a lot of moving parts to being a Dragon quarterback.”

Bowers has the benefit of a veteran wide receiver group at his disposal. Every starting pass catcher is a senior and has taken the time to show Bowers the ropes and develop chemistry. 

Cade Bell is the team’s leading returning wide receiver. He recorded 25 receptions for 385 yards as a junior. Both Colton Phillips, who transferred in from Denton Guyer last year, and Tucker Slechta are returning from injuries, while Darryl Crockett and Hudson Shrum will play integral roles.

Bell was Bowers’ go-to receiver in the opener, posting eight receptions for 153 yards and one touchdown. As mentioned, the receivers worked endlessly to build a bond with Bowers this offseason.

“It’s the little things,” Bell said. “We hang out together. We work on routes after practice. We want to build his confidence up. I think it’s helped a lot. He also learned a lot from Mason [Holmes] last year. I think he’s ready to take that role.”

The senior receivers also made sure to let Bowers know that he is trusted. It’s not hard to see that Bowers has earned their respect.

“He showed that he wants it,” Phillips said. “He proved that he could play during spring ball and our scrimmages. We know he can do it. It’s just time for him to step up.”

The bond between a quarterback and his receivers is essential for any team, especially one that runs a high powered offense like Southlake Carroll. The timing has to be just right and the trust needs to be there.

Bowers, who attempted just 15 passes as the primary backup a year ago, said he is lucky to have not only seniors leading the way but also a great group of guys that have been patient during his development.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “It gives me a lot of confidence to know that I can trust my guys. I’m going to make plays for them, and they are going to make plays for me. Ever since the end of last season, we’ve grown together and be- come a family.”

Slechta added: “It’s everything for him to have that trust. If he has the trust in his receivers, he’s going to play better. His confidence has grown a lot. He’s got a strong arm and is a great guy. He’s going to be a great quarterback.”

And that bond goes beyond football. Bowers and the re- ceivers spend plenty of time each around each other when they are not out on the field grinding.

“We all hang out on the weekends,” Slechta said. “We play poker all the time, we see movies and we have a team dinner every week. We hang out all the time. We’re all best friends.”

Now that the chemistry is there between Bowers and his wide outs one can only assume it will only grow stronger as the season progresses and the group becomes more focused on the details.

WASSON ON RECEIVERS:

Wasson commands receivers to not only be great pass catchers but also great blockers in the run game. At Southlake Carroll, it’s not just about hauling in highlight receptions but also doing the little things right.

“We need to be unselfish,” Wasson said. “We need to win 1-on-1 matchups, but we also need to play well without the ball. You have to be a great route runner, blocker and of course, you have to catch the ball. 

“I have seen us become more creative in our route running and be more competitive in 1-on-1 matchups. I’ve seen significant improvement in our blocking. I can tell that they take a lot of pride in that.”

Wasson added that he has been the most impressed with Bell, who has taken over as one of the key leaders of the entire offen- sive unit.

“There has been a lot maturity with Cade Bell,” Wasson said. “He has been our big playmaker from a receiver standpoint. He has a lot of experience and is the leader of our wide receiver group.”

Overall, the group has the experience and leadership to help Bowers develop into one of the top passers in the area and in turn make Southlake Carroll’s offense explosive despite the losses of playmakers like last year’s District MVP quarterback Mason Holmes.

With an early season win under their belt and plenty of confi- dence surrounding both Bowers and the receivers, there is only one thing for the Dragons to do —continue to perfect their craft.

“Practice is practice — nobody likes it,” Bell said with a laugh. “You can ask anybody here. But we go full speed and mimic game situations to make the games easier. And when you win on Friday nights, that feeling that you have at the end of the game is something you can’t beat.”

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