“He’s a fireball. Red-headed kick, red-headed Mohawk,” Lawrenceburg coach Ryan Knigga said. “He’s what I consider an old-fashioned running back. He doesn’t like to dance. If he has a chance to hit someone, he’s going to hit them.”
From the looks of Bowling’s statistics, he doesn’t just hit defenders. He runs them over. Bowling, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior, has rushed 359 times for 3,003 yards, an average of 214.5 yards per game and 8.4 yards per carry. He has 52 touchdowns (3.7 touchdowns per game). He averages 27.6 carries per game.
Concordia (12-2) plays Lawrenceburg (13-1) for the Class 3A title at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium.
“He’s a bowling ball,’ Knigga said, pun intended. “He loves to run the ball in between the tackles and he gets downhill in a hurry, three to four yards and – boom – you can see it in some of the teams we play. They might get him early, but that constant pounding takes a toll on you, having to tackle 220 pounds every time.”
Lawrenceburg’s offensive line includes junior left tackle Brett Miller (5-10, 220), senior left guard Noah Boyd (6-1, 220), senior center Caleb Craft (6-1, 260), senior right guard Cory Quicksall (5-10, 220) and junior right tackle Darin Ricketts (6-0, 200). Sometimes, the Tigers go with an extra lineman, bringing in junior Eyan Peelman (6-2, 225).
“A running back doesn’t get 3,000 yards unless those guys on the line are really good,” Knigga said. “Our guys up front have a lot to do with that.”
The outlandish running game has produced some interesting strategies from opponents.
“A lot of defenses come in and do things against us that they don’t do on film to try to take away the running game,” Knigga said. “Brownstown Central at one point had nine guys in the box.”
Concordia coach Tim Mannigel has been impressed by Bowling in the video he has studied.
“Not only has he amassed a lot of yards, but the style of runner that he is, he rarely goes down on the first hit,” Mannigel said. “Couple that with how we finished the game Friday night against Garrett and defensively we have our work cut out for us.”
Garrett running back Cam Smith, who is 6-2 and 195 pounds, rushed 24 times for 191 yards and four touchdowns. Concordia won 56-42.
If the Cadets spend too much time focusing on Bowling, however, Lawrenceburg does have some other offensive playmakers. Quarterback Reid Strobl has thrown for 2,157 yards and 28 touchdowns, receiver Jordan Houze has 778 yards and 11 touchdowns and receiver Ben Murphy has 605 yards and eight touchdowns.
“A lot of people would say our quarterback is just an average quarterback,” Knigga said. “But if I could give you a 2,000-yard passer with 28 touchdowns and only six interceptions, I bet you would take him. He wouldn’t be so average then. He’s cool, calm and collected.”
Lawrenceburg’s defense is led by junior middle linebacker Mason Parris who has 180 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, seven sacks, three interceptions and six forced fumbles.
When needed, Bowling jumps onto the defensive line.
“We try to limit it because he’s carrying the ball so much,” Knigga said. “He’ll run out there on defense on occasion. Usually, he goes in when we think we need to get a stop, or on a pass-rush down where he can get some pressure on the quarterback. He’s a great kid to watch. He will be noticed.”