Long before Ross Bowers ever threw perfectly-spiraling passes on a football field, he flew through the air himself.
Little did he know that his early days in the gymnasium would one day help transform him into Bothell High School’s star quarterback.
The top-ranked Cougars are one victory from advancing to the Class 4A state championship game at Gridiron Classic. They play KingCo rival Newport of Bellevue in the state semifinals Saturday night in the Tacoma Dome.
With standout tailback Sam McPherson sidelined for the rest of the season by a knee injury, this is Bowers’ show on offense. The California Golden Bears commit has thrown for 2,792 yards and 32 touchdowns this season.
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But he won’t be doing any high-wire flips to keep the Bothell offense moving. He still has a fantastic supporting cast.
That is not to say he isn’t well-versed in acrobatics. His mother, Joanne, is the women’s gymnastics coach at the University of Washington. He’s often accompanied her to campus.
“I’m really good on the trampoline,” said a grinning Bowers, who is now 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds. “People don’t realize it (takes) so much body control and weight distribution ... It’s little stuff, and it’s a slight edge.”
Joanne Bowers said her son displayed natural gymnastics ability at a young age.
“He picked everything up so easily; he would just start doing things like double backflips,” she said. “I would say, ‘You scare me; you’re going to get hurt.’”
As the youngest son of two college coaches – his father, John, is the assistant head football coach at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia — he was born into sports.
“I dragged Ross to everything — all of my husband’s games, my gymnastics meets, his big brother’s games,” Joanne Bowers said. “He was always trying to play, or throw something to get someone’s attention.”
Taught in a pro-style system, Ross Bowers distinguished himself from other prep quarterbacks nationally by making it to the ESPN Rise “Elite 11” finals last summer, showing poise, zip on his passes and footwork.
Then there are the things Bothell coach Tom Bainter sees.
“He’s unselfish and a great leader,” Bainter said. “And is arm strength is unbelievable. I have never coached a kid with an arm like him.”
Against Bellarmine Prep — which ended Bothell’s season in the 4A playoffs in three of the past four years — Bowers threw for 305 yards and a touchdown in the 37-14 victory Saturday at Mount Tahoma Stadium.
But that isn’t what garnered the most attention.
Instead of wearing his customary No. 4 jersey, Bowers came out instead with No. 20 in honor of McPherson. Bowers came to his best friend a few days before the 4A quarterfinal game and asked if he could wear the running back’s number.
“It meant a lot,” said McPherson, who has been friends with Bowers since they were 5. “It shows how much he cares, and what a great leader he is.”
And while Bothell is one win away from playing for a state championship, the ever-practical Bowers is noncommittal about the prospect.
“It’s a great thought, but once we get ahead of ourselves, that’s when we fall off,” Bowers said. “So we focus on one game, and it’s gotten us to this point, so don’t fix it if it’s not broken.”
Bowers will graduate from high school in December, and enroll at Cal early – in time for spring ball with the Golden Bears.
Right now, the senior has one focus – winning two more games, and a 4A title.
“That’s when he does a good job – when he lives in the moment,” Bainter said. “He plays for right now.”