Bowers led Wayne’s rise
WAYNE — He is Wayne’s all-time passing leader, and he owns the school records for career and single-season touchdown passes.
But the record Beau Bowers will likely be remembered for is 7-4 — the Blue Devils’ final record in a season that included the school’s first playoff berth in four years and the first playoff win in 34 years.
“To finally win a playoff game,” Bowers said regarding what was memorable to him, “and to maybe start rising the culture at Wayne.”
Yes, Bowers — who earned the starting quarterback job as a sophomore — and his fellow seniors put the spotlight of a community known more for its basketball and baseball success on football.
And they had a blast doing it.
“It was really fun when we put it all together. We worked really hard this year and in the offseason,” Bowers said. “We got stuff clicking, and everything seemed to work out.”
Under first-year coach Russ Plager, the Blue Devils made their presence known immediately. They beat 2015 Class C1 champion Columbus Scotus in the opener before taking down eventual C1 runner-up Boone Central/Newman Grove at home in week two.
In that game, Bowers hooked up with Mason Lee — who will join him this fall at Wayne State — for a 35-yard game-winning touchdown pass with 1:39 left.
Bowers and Lee will also team up to represent Wayne High one last time for the Red team in Saturday’s Northeast Nebraska All-Star Football Classic.
In both Saturday’s game and at WSC next year, they’ll be joined by teammate Ryan Jaixen.
“Mason and I played all year, but Ryan broke his collar bone in the Norfolk Catholic game,” Bowers said. “It feels really good to have him back for one more game that we can play together.”
Lee and Jaixen were Bowers’ favorite targets during the fall and will give the Reds an added bit of chemistry in the passing game.
“We just always seem to be on the same page. We always know what the others are doing, and we kind of led the team,” Bowers said. “We’re already clicking in practice.”
That wasn’t always the case.
As a sophomore, a bright-eyed Bowers struggled while learning on the job as Wayne finished 2-7. The next year they went 3-6.
But those seasons also gave Bowers valuable experience, and a 24-20 win over West Point-Beemer late in his junior year helped build momentum last fall.
“Eight minutes left in the West Point game, and we were down by 20 points. We just put it all together and we came back,” Bowers said. “That coming into our next year really showed us that we can make an impact and compete.”
That success and the energy it sparked for a program with a first-year coach may very well have built the foundation for even greater success in the future.
At least, that’s what Bowers is hoping.
“He (Plager) told us that we really set the bar high for a good football culture to rise at Wayne High,” Bowers said.