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Delco Football Friday: Bowens making his mark at Penn Wood

LANSDOWNE >> Rahiem Bowens grew up in a household that preached hard work and a don’t-quit mentality. His biggest inspiration is his famous big brother.

Thadd Smith, an All-Delco athlete at Cardinal O’Hara who is a senior wide receiver at Boston College. Big bro remains a role model to this day.

“I come from a household of hard work,” said Bowens, a senior wide receiver at Penn Wood. “That if you keep working, you’ll get the things that you deserve. “My biggest influence is my older brother, Thaddius Smith, who is a wide receiver at Boston College. He’s been my mentor, ever since I was younger and started playing football when I was 6.”

As an impressionable young man, Bowens tried to copy everything Smith did on the football field.

“I’d never miss a high school game,” Bowens said. “I wanted to mimic the things he did. I’d love watching his every move — his releases, his routes, his hand placement, especially with blocking. I just tried to mimic every detail, everything he did.”

Bowens was a running back in youth ball and had never played wide receiver before his freshman season at Penn Wood. He remembers an early conversation with former Patriots coach Nick Lincoln that changed everything.

“I was a running back in little league,” Bowens said. “When I came into high school and saw all the linemen, I thought, ‘Whoa, those guys are big. I don’t want to mess with them guys.’ My freshman year, I never took into consideration to play any other position. But then Coach Lincoln actually said to me, ‘You have some pretty good hands. You’re pretty fast and can run some routes so why don’t you go to wide receiver?’ I just took off from there.”

Last week, in Penn Wood’s 28-7 victory at Council Rock North, Bowens accomplished something he never thought was possible. With 1,434 yards, Bowens became the all-time receiving leading in school history. He has an outside chance to become only the sixth receiver in county history to reach 2,000 yards in a career.

Pretty cool.

“I didn’t even know,” he said. “I never really want to take my foot off the gas. I just want to keep applying pressure and working hard. I was surprised to see I got the record, and I felt blessed at the same time.”

Soon after he was promoted to take over the head coach position, Ato Troop told his team to prepare to play on both sides of the ball. There would be few, if any, exceptions. Bowens primarily had played wide receiver since cracking varsity as a senior in 2014.

“Last year, when I was the D-coordinator, Rahiem was more of an offensive players and didn’t really play defense,” Troop said. “So this year, when I took over, I said to everyone that I don’t believe in one-way players. We’re all going to play both ways to help the team.”

Sure enough, Troop could count on Bowens, who has proven to be more than a one-trick pony.

“Rahiem bought into it and he’s learned the concepts,” Troop said. “He’s probably got the best work ethic on the team and he’s in great physical condition. I think having an older brother who plays D1 at Boston College makes a difference. That’s a huge influence on his work ethic and what he does.”

Bowens had a huge night last Friday to help the Patriots get into the win column for the first time in 2017. He had seven catches for 116 yards and a touchdown. His good buddy, Kennedy Poles, finished with five receptions for 125 yards and a score. Bowens admits that Pole, who is a junior, will likely topple him in career yardage someday soon.

“That’s my best friend, we’re always together,” Bowens said of Poles. “He’s a freakish athlete. He can jump out the sky and anything you ask him to do, he’s going to do it. That may be the one who might be coming for my record.”

Bowens is garnering interest on the college recruiting trail. He has been in contact with New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine, among others.

“He’s definitely going to get some legit offers, once we get rolling here,” Troop said.

For now, Bowens’ duty is to lead on the field and make sure the Patriots reach the .500 mark for the season with a win over Norristown at Kerr Field Saturday. Kickoff is 1 o’clock.

“Getting that win last week, it was a stress reliever,” Bowens said. “We didn’t want to go 0-3, and we didn’t want another 2014 season (when the Patriots finished 0-10). We took it upon ourselves — the coaches and the players — to step it up a notch. We were fortunate to get the ‘W’ on Friday night.

“Norristown’s got athletes as much as we do. We have to run to the ball, tackle, stay focused and make sure we keep our discipline. Coach always get on us about our discipline, so we’ve got to keep that up.”

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