Before even earning the starting job at Glenelg, the bar was high for Bisi Owens.
With an older brother, Wande, who was named Howard County Offensive Player of the Year two of his final three seasons and finished his career as Howard County’s all-time leading rusher, there were naturally lofty expectations for Bisi to follow in those footsteps.
He never, however, let the pressure faze him. Bisi, who was a freshman when Wande wrapped up his Glenelg career in 2018, took over as the Gladiators’ starting quarterback and blazed a path all his own.
“I’m proud of the way I handled the pressure that was put on me because coming in as a freshman my brother was the senior player of the year breaking all of the rushing records in the county and when he graduated it put a lot of pressure on me to step up and have that next up mentality,” Owens said.
This fall, after missing most of his sophomore season with a broken collarbone and getting to play only three games during the condensed season in the spring, Owens led the Gladiators to a 10-2 record and a share of the county title in his first full season.
Displaying his versatility to attack defenses both with his passing and rushing ability, Owens dissected opposing defenses for 42 total touchdowns.
“I’d say I’m definitely more of a dual-threat quarterback with the intention to run first,” Owens said. “I think I’m good on my feet, say a play breaks down I believe I can make something happen. I still feel like I’m a pretty talented passer, but I’d definitely say I’m more focused on the run game.”
Through the air, Owens finished the season 57-for-95 for 855 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. Rushing, Owens tallied a county-leading 1,842 yards and 30 touchdowns, averaging 8.3 yards per carry.
With those dynamic numbers, Owens has been named the fall 2021 Howard County Times/Columbia Flier football Offensive Player of the Year.
“He’s one of the most dynamic players that I’ve coached,” Glenelg coach Tim Cullen said. “He’s versatile at what he does, he’s a dual-threat. He can legitimately throw the football, he’s not a running back playing quarterback. He can stand tall in the pocket, and he’s just got a really strong arm.”
While Owens’ explosive playmaking on the field is well documented, his leadership off the field proved to be a pivotal part of the Gladiators’ success. A two-time captain, Owens led the offense with many of his key playmakers contributing as underclassmen.
That leadership was on full display during the challenging shortened 2020 spring season with restrictions on practice time and meetings held virtually. It then seamlessly transitioned to last offseason where Owens spearheaded 7-on-7 workouts with his young playmakers to improve chemistry.
“Just how much of a leader he is,” Cullen said in terms of what makes Owens stand out. “He was always the same kid no matter the score. He was even-keeled in that last game even when we were pretty much getting whooped. He was still calm, cool and collected and focused trying to get us back into the game.”
Although the season didn’t end how the Gladiators would’ve hoped with a 35-3 loss to Milford Mill in the Class 2A state quarterfinals, Owens’ consistency fueled the Gladiators’ offensive success throughout.
“I’m really just proud of how far we came,” Owens said of his final season. “Honestly coming into the season, I had my doubts because we lost so many talented seniors from the year prior. We just kept going through adversity and I’m just really proud of the way my team played throughout the entire season.”
First team All-County
Casey Pung, Marriotts Ridge, senior: Led the Mustangs’ offense with 1,124 passing yards, the highest total in the county, and 11 total touchdowns (7 passing, 4 rushing).
Praise Bright, Centennial, senior: A threat in the running and passing game, Bright finished with 937 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Ethan Burnett, River Hill, junior: Rushed for 1,048 yards and five touchdowns to spearhead the Hawks’ offense.
Julius Saunders, Long Reach, senior: One of the most productive rushers in Howard County with 1,009 yards and 19 touchdowns.
John Tatum, Oakland Mills, senior: A main weapon in the multi-faceted Scorpions rushing attack, Tatum compiled 756 yards and seven touchdowns.
Jayden Baxter, Long Reach, junior: Through 11 games, Baxter led the Lightning’s receiving corps with 30 receptions, 342 yards and five touchdowns.
Steven Jackson, Marriotts Ridge, senior: The leading receiver in the county with 69 receptions, 675 yards and six touchdowns.
Kylik Perry, Oakland Mills, senior: Developed a strong rapport with quarterback Kayne Holland as the Scorpions’ leading receiver with 19 receptions, 246 yards and four touchdowns.
Kevin Smitson, Atholton, senior: Utilized in multiple ways, Smitson developed into a versatile weapon, finishing with 41 receptions, 618 yards and five touchdowns.
CJ Marthins, Howard, senior: In a run-heavy offense, Marthins paved the way for both running backs Darrell English and Travis Thompson.
Nick Salafia, Glenelg, senior: Helped anchor the offensive line for the Gladiators, setting up holes for Bisi Owens, the leading rusher in the county.
Korede Sogbesan, Atholton, senior: Stout on both the offensive and defensive lines, Sogbesan consistently made an impact in the trenches.
Alex Tiley, Oakland Mills, senior: One of the pivotal pieces on a unit that helped block for four 300-yard rushers.
Alex Willis, Long Reach, junior: A vital part in the Lightning’s explosive offense that finished the season with both a 1,000-yard passer and rusher.
Kanye Holland, Oakland Mills, senior: Effective as both a runner and a passer, Holland was the Scorpions’ leading passer (331 yards) and rusher (800 yards).
Mitchell Dickson, Howard, sophomore: Small in stature at 5-foot-7, 130 pounds but had a big, accurate leg in helping the Lions win four games.
Alex Coffey, Long Reach, senior
Shane King, Oakland Mills, junior
Nathaniel Lamb, Hammond, senior
Ethan Sotka, Glenelg, junior
Dillan Watkins, Atholton, junior
Christian Chen, Glenelg, sophomore
Conlan Pierre, Wilde Lake, senior
Max Richardson, Wilde Lake, senior
Carter Watson, Centennial, junior
Jonathan Argueta, Reservoir, junior
Everett Armstead, Mt. Hebron, senior
Hassan Kamara, Oakland Mills, senior
Dominic Magnolia, Glenelg, senior
George Mansaray, River Hill, senior
Mofe Adewole, Centennial, senior
Destin Hill, Reservoir, sophomore
Ben Gershuny, Atholton, senior
Kofi Boampong, Wilde Lake (QB); Aidan Hauf, Mt. Hebron (RB); Brian Keys, Reservoir (RB); Drew Peperone, Mt. Hebron (RB); Ty’Reek Reid, Atholton (AP); Miles Scott, Atholton (QB).
Atholton* (8-1 county, 10-2 overall); Glenelg** (8-1, 10-2); Oakland Mills^ (8-1, 10-2); Long Reach (7-2, 8-3); River Hill (5-4, 6-5); Mt. Hebron (4-4, 5-6); Wilde Lake (4-5, 4-6); Reservoir (3-5, 3-6); Howard (3-6, 4-7); Hammond (1-7, 1-8); Centennial (1-8, 1-9); Marriotts Ridge (0-8, 0-9).
*Co-county champs, 3A state quarterfinalist; **Co-county champs, 2A state quarterfinalist; ^Co-county champs, 2A state semifinalist
Click through the galleries below to see the league leaders in passing, rushing and receiving for the 2021 season.