Glenelg senior running back Wande Owens has heard plenty about the Howard County all-time career rushing record the past week or two. Fullback Sam Alsheimer texted Owens about it ahead of Friday’s home game against River Hill, letting Owens know he was a proud teammate and that Owens deserved to be in this position, 93 rushing yards away from history. His father, Earl Owens, also asked him about the possibility of taking down a record that has stood since 1990. In response, Owens simply shrugged and said, “We’ve got to get the W.”
Owens reiterated as much after Glenelg’s 12-0 win over River Hill that kept the Gladiators undefeated eight weeks into the season. Sure, breaking the record was in the back of his mind, but Owens’ main goals included finishing drives and, above all, coming away with a victory.
However, he was also forced into discussing his individual accomplishment on Friday night. With a 23-yard scamper late in the first quarter, Owens passed Wilde Lake’s Raphael Wall, who totaled 5,095 yards from 1987 to 1990, for the most career rushing yards in league history. Owens finished the game with 28 carries for 273 yards and a pair of touchdowns, giving him 5,276 rushing yards during his three-plus years at Glenelg and setting a new bar of rushing excellence in Howard County.
“He’s just a beast,” Alsheimer said of Owens. “Probably the hardest working player I’ve ever seen. He’s going to do big things at the [Division] I level [at Yale], and that’s why; because he works hard.”
That tireless work ethic and drive to improve is what allowed Owens to earn varsity carries as a 5-foot-8, 140-pound freshman. It’s what allowed him to set the single-season rushing record of 2,504 rushing yards a year later and earn Howard County Times Offensive Player of the Year, the first time a sophomore won a Player of the Year award in football in more than 35 years. It’s what allowed him to come back from an injury, which robbed him of the opening four games of his junior season, and carry Glenelg to its third regional title in four years.
Yes, Owens possesses the natural talent needed to become one of the best running backs in Howard County history, but it’s his everyday ambition to help Glenelg succeed that coaches and teammates believe sets him apart.
“His work ethic and his dedication and commitment is unparalleled,” Glenelg coach Butch Schaffer said. “And he’s just the most humble kid that you’d ever believe, and it’s great to have a leader of your team do it by example and do it the right way all the time.”
That unselfishness was on display in the team huddle moments after the Gladiators’ toughest triumph of the season. There Owens stood, in front of his coaches and teammates who were celebrating his never-before-seen achievement, trying to direct attention away from himself in any way possible.
“It started up front with our front seven,” Owens said in a postgame interview. “They were getting the push that we needed.”
Every chance he gets, Owens credits his offensive line. It’s their play up front that has allowed Owens to rush for 1,602 yards and 25 touchdowns in eight games this season. It’s their blocking that helped Owens amass at least 193 yards in seven consecutive contests. The only game he failed to reach that threshold was during the Gladiators’ season-opening win against Centennial — a game that was called before halftime because of inclement weather.
On Owens’ first touchdown run Friday night, a 69-yard burst on the Gladiators’ first play from scrimmage, he made sure to mention how downfield blocks from offensive linemen Otto Trawick and CJ Davidson gave him the chance to bounce outside before outrunning River Hill defenders down the left sideline. On the record-breaking carry, an up-the-gut run filled with decisive cuts and a strong finish, he simply pulled himself off the turf and returned to the huddle. To him, it was just another positive play.
Owens struggled at times Friday, like when he fumbled at 2-yard line right before the half with Glenelg leading, 6-0. And for much of the second half, River Hill had him completely bottled up. In stopping Owens, the Hawks shut down Glenelg’s offense to stay within a touchdown until the final minutes.
But similar to what has happened time and time again over his illustrious career, the Hawks could not fully contain him. Backed up to their own 6-yard line with a few minutes to play, the Gladiators called a running play to Owens and watched their star do the rest.
“It’s crazy,” Alsheimer said of Owens’ 94-yard game-clinching touchdown. “I’ve seen him run for a lot of those, and I’ve seen his back end flying down the field many times, and it’s just amazing how fast he is and his acceleration down the field.”
Standing on the field after a day he’ll remember for the rest of his life, Owens reflected on a high school football career he could not have envisioned as a freshman.
“Not at all, no,” Owens said. “I didn’t know at all that this would happen.”
But with Friday night’s performance, there’s no arguing about the most productive running back in Howard County history. That title belongs to Owens, and there’s no telling how long his record will stand.
“We’ve had a lot of great kids, and he’s right near the top of that list if not at the top,” Schaffer said.
Added Alsheimer: “One of the best players I’ve ever seen for sure.”