Glenelg senior running back Wande Owens has always shied away from the spotlight. He prefers to credit his long touchdown runs and massive yardage totals to his offensive line and coaching staff every chance he can get.
“I couldn’t have done it without the guys up front,” he said to his teammates while holding the game ball following the Gladiators’ 12-0 home victory over rival River Hill on Friday night. “That’s all I’ve got.”
But Owens couldn’t avoid the headlines entering the Week 8 showdown because he was on the verge of making history. The 6-foot, 185-pound bruiser entered Friday night’s contest with 5,003 career yards, just 93 yards shy of breaking the Howard County career rushing record held by Wilde Lake’s Raphael Wall, who totaled 5,095 yards from 1987 to 1990.
Owens clearly was ready to get the record behind him. He took his first carry of the game 69 yards for a touchdown to give Glenelg (8-0) an early 6-0 lead after a missed extra point, and six carries later he scampered up the middle for a 23-yard run to break the record late in the first quarter.
His last carry of the game was the biggest of the game, however. Pinned inside its own 6-yard line with 3 minutes, 39 seconds remaining, Owens sealed the victory by going untouched up the middle for a 94-yard touchdown.
“This is the type of game we knew it was going to be,” Glenelg coach Butch Schaffer said. “It only takes one or two, and [Owens] stepped up when he needed to and got us out of a little bit of trouble there.”
He finished with a season-high 273 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries, pushing his career rushing yardage total to 5,276. He also has at least two rushing touchdowns in every game and has 25 total on the season, six shy of another record set by Wall in 1990.
“It’s a tremendous accomplishment by him, and I’ve got to be honest with you, I’m proud as hell of him,” Schaffer said. “He’s never once talked about his yardage, he’s never once talked about his accomplishments. The only thing he’s ever talked about is his team. That’s a great example to have.”
Between Owens’ first and last carries, the Hawks (5-3) slowed him time and time again, and as a result they kept a Gladiators offense that was averaging 43 points per game out of the end zone in the second and third quarters. Defensively, River Hill’s game plan was working to near perfection after Owens broke free on his first touch.
In the final minute of the first half, Spencer Brockdorff recovered an Owens fumble at Hawks’ 2-yard line to keep the score deadlocked at 6-0, and it remained that way until late in the fourth quarter.
“We’re proud of the defensive effort,” said River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen. “We thought we had a good plan in, it’s just a matter of containing [Owens]. You know he’s going to get his yards, he’s going to get a lot of carries, but we’ve got to stop the big play. Unfortunately today he had two of them. ... We knew it was going to be a tough test. Nobody else this year has really slowed them down at all.”
The Hawks got life and the momentum shifted with a little more than six minutes remaining. On fourth and inches at their own 39-yard line, Schaffer and the Gladiators decided to go for it, but quarterback Tyler Reiff couldn’t convert the sneak. River Hill took over just 39 yards away from potentially taking the lead.
“That’s a bad decision. I should’ve punted,” Schaffer admitted after the game.
The Hawks converted a third and short, and then a 17-yard pass from Robby Windsor to Brockdorff for a first down to the Glenelg 11. But with the game on the line, the Gladiators defense forced four straight incompletions to take over on downs.
A false start set Glenelg back to its own 6, and Owens broke free for his longest run of the season on the next play.
Windsor went 13-for-33 passing with 143 yards and two interceptions and Brockdorff had eight receptions for 114 yards. The Hawks had little to show in the run game, however, finishing with 23 carries for 27 yards as a team.
It’s the fourth shutout this season for the Glenelg defense, which forced three turnovers — interceptions from Trisden Bovello in the first quarter and Reiff in the fourth, as well as a sack and fumble recovery by Michael Doughty in third. After the game, Schaffer raved about his defensive coordinator Tim Cullen.
“He’s the best defensive coordinator there is around,” he said. “He does a tremendous job with those guys, and I just hope he gets a little more credit. I’m really proud of him and his staff and the defense for playing the way they have all year.”
Glenelg (8-0) — 6 0 0 6 — 12
River Hill (5-3) — 0 0 0 0 — 0
G: Wande Owens 69-yard run, kick failed [6-0]