En route to crushing Howard County’s all-time career rushing record, breaking the county’s single-season touchdown mark and running for 2,193 yards over 11 games this fall, Glenelg senior running back Wande Owens has always credited his offensive line. Their blocks, he said, are the key to his success.
Surely, there’s more to his dominance, but Owens refuses to boast. So, after the Gladiators’ regional semifinal win over Oakland Mills on Friday night, Owens’ offensive line did the bragging for him.
Offensive tackle CJ Davidson: “He’s the toughest player I’ve ever played with.”
Tackle Jake Arnone: “One of the fastest people I’ve ever seen.”
Guard Otto Trawick: “He’s passionate. We know he loves the game. He definitely plays for us out there.”
Owens displayed all of those traits in a 42-0 shellacking of the Scorpions in the 2A South region semifinals. On 17 carries, Owens accumulated 246 yards and scored four touchdowns. On defense, he snagged one of the Gladiators’ four interceptions and juked his way to a 70-yard return touchdown. Oh, and he accomplished all of this by the opening minutes of the third quarter.
With Owens leading the way, the top-seeded Gladiators advance to next week’s region final, where they’ll play the winner of Saturday’s game between Westlake and River Hill. A third-straight region title hangs in the balance.
“A lot of it started with our offensive line,” Owens said. “They opened up some huge holes, and our full backs were blocking really well, getting the linebackers who were supposed to fill the hole. So, I just had to bounce it outside and there was all daylight.”
Owens’ first touchdown showed off his toughness. The Gladiators handed their workhorse the ball six straight times to start the game, and Owens’ delivered 65 yards and a score in 2 minutes, 14 seconds. On that 23-yard scamper into the end zone, he sidestepped one defender, ran over another and slithered through two more to put the county champions ahead, 7-0.
“He’s aggressive. He hits the hole hard,” offensive tackle Griffin Doyle said. “Nobody in the county hits the hole like Wande.”
Nobody has scored touchdowns like Owens has this season either. With his first-quarter jolt, Owens passed Wilde Lake’s Raphael Wall (1987-90) for the most single-season touchdowns in Howard County history with 32. Earlier this season, with a 275-yard performance against River Hill on Oct. 19, Owens passed Wall to become the county’s all-time career rushing leader.
And while Owens was pleased to have surpassed these long-standing marks, they’ve never been at the forefront of his mind. Winning is more important, and that’s all Glenelg (11-0) has done this season.
Oakland Mills (7-4) pressured the Gladiators early — most notably with an 11-play, 63-yard run-heavy drive on its first possession — but the Scorpions squandered their first of two red-zone opportunities with three ineffective runs and an incomplete pass. Glenelg took over at its own 3-yard line.
At this point, anyone could have guessed where the ball was going next, yet Oakland Mills was simply overmatched. On the first play of the drive, Owens took the handoff from quarterback Tyler Reiff and got out to the 17-yard line. He then took another handoff from Reiff and flashed his breakaway speed, not stopping until he crossed the goal line.
In less than eight minutes, Owens ran all eight of the team’s offensive plays for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s a physical runner, and he’s also got a lot of speed,” Scorpions coach Tom Browne said. “He’s a big kid. He’s six-feet tall, and he’s bigger than half the kids on our team and he’s running the ball. And then he’s got a great line up front.”
Despite the lopsided season-ending defeat, Browne was proud with what his program was able to accomplish. Blowout losses to Howard and Glenelg dropped the Oakland Mills to 1-2 three weeks into the season, but the Scorpions closed the campaign with six wins in seven games. They needed all of those to secure the fourth and final playoff spot in the 2A South region.
But on Friday night, Browne said his team ran into a “buzzsaw” in Glenelg and a “whole nother animal” in Owens.
Reiff’s 27-yard pass to tight end Drew Sotka late in the first quarter set up Owens’ third touchdown of the game, a 5-yard run around right end that put Glenelg up, 21-0.
Glenelg then went up 28-0 moments later on a defensive touchdown from none other than its record-breaking running back. On an errant pass from quarterback Kai Castle, Owens’ hauled in the first of four Gladiators interceptions and weaved his way to the end zone once again.
“I just saw daylight, and in my mind I was like, ‘I don’t want to get tackled,’” Owens said. “If I’m going to pick it up, I’m going to try to take it to the house, so that was my main goal.”
Oakland Mills gave the ball back to Glenelg following a three-and-out to start the second half, and the Gladiators immediately went back to their favorite play. Owens earned 11 yards on his first two carries of the drive before breaking free down the right sideline for a 37-yard touchdown. A successful extra point prompted a running clock.
Owens spent a majority of the second half on the sidelines while the offense operated through junior Kyle Dry, who capped the scoring with an 18-yard touchdown run to close out the third quarter. Owens also watched from the bench as the defense stymied Oakland Mills late in the fourth quarter, preserving the team’s sixth shutout of the season.
“It was a great job by our defense,” Glenelg coach Butch Schaffer said. “Our offensive line played amazing, and Wande was Wande, doing what he does. I was really proud of the kids’ effort.”
Glenelg (11-0) — 42, Oakland Mills (7-4) — 0
G — 21 7 14 0 — 42
OM — 0 0 0 0 — 0
G: Wande Owens 23-yard run, Chris Retzbach kick [7-0]
G: Owens 83-yard run, Retzbach kick [14-0]
G: Owens 5-yard run, Retzbach kick [21-0]
G: Owens 70-yard interception return, Retzbach kick [28-0]
G: Owens 26-yard run, Retzbach kick [35-0]