Bowser makes big play with fumble return for TD

WHEELING – In Madonna’s 24-14 Class A state championship win over Greenbrier West, Will Bowser caught two touchdown passes from Ross Comis.

Six months later, back at Wheeling Island Stadium, he still found his way to the endzone.

But this time, Bowser took a different route.

Trailing by 20 points with under a minute to go before halftime in the 69th-annual Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Football Game, West Virginia left the door open for Ohio to score again.

Bowser, playing cornerback, stopped the Buckeyes’ momentum by picking up a loose ball and taking it 79 yards the other way for a touchdown.

“I just saw the ball pop up,” Bowser said. “I went for it and thought, ‘Don’t stop running.’

“My teammates were able to strip it out and I picked it up and kept on running.”

A pair of West Virginia linebackers forced Ohio’s Kenny Hess to cough up the ball on the Mountaineers’ 21-yard line.

Bowser scooped it up and had a long open field ahead of him.

“I wasn’t stopping,” Bowser said.

It gave the Mountaineers much-needed momentum for the second half. The score brought the game to 27-14 at halftime and West Virginia scored the next, and last, 12 points.

“We started playing better,” Bowser said. “We never put our heads down and at halftime we were in the locker room talking about stepping our game up. We did well in the second half.”

Bowser will play collegiately at Washington & Jefferson, but it was his last game alongside Madonna teammates Eliott Nero and Nate Guio.

“It’s a great feeling, even after a loss,” Bowser said. “I’m going to miss all these guys, especially Nate and Eliott.

“It was a real fun time with them at Madonna; we accomplished a lot. I had a great week practicing and hanging out with all the West Virginia guys preparing for this game.”

Nero, who tallied 47 all-purpose yards in the Dec. 7 state title game, rushed for 13 yards on four carries in Sunday’s game.

He had a long run of nine yards in a fourth quarter drive that ended in a fourth down-and-one stop by Ohio’s Chris Littell with six minutes left to play.

“We were up and we were ready to take the lead,” Nero said. “Basically we just focused more and slowed down. We were making mistakes and giving them plays in the first half instead of forcing them to make plays on their own.

“It was a different ballgame in the second half.”

Nero rushed for 1,858 yards in his senior season and totaled 32 touchdowns.

He now heads to Mount Union, reporting for camp on Aug. 12.

You win some, you lose some,” he said of the OVAC Game. “I hope I have a lot of wins left in me for the next four years.”

With the Purple Raiders, he likely will. The Alliance, OH college has 11 national titles to its name.

Guio will be an engineering major at West Virginia University in the fall.