BY PAMELA LONDON / SEATTLE TIMES STAFF
Bothell football coach Tom Bainter wanted his quarterback to dive.
I thought that was the logical choice, too, from my position on the sideline 10 feet away, as I hurried to set my camera ready for the next play.
What happened next, as seen through the video-camera screen on my phone, was one of the craziest plays I have ever watched live.
What happened next was about to go viral.
Ross Bowers had just completed a 27-yard slant pass to Dayzell Wilson, and the receiver battled for yards after the catch to set up first-and-goal from the 6-yard line. With time running out on the third quarter and Bothell leading Chiawana of Pasco 17-7 in the Class 4A state high-school championship game, Bowers stepped to the line of scrimmage to try to extend the lead. Taking the shotgun snap, Bowers sat in the pocket.
One, two, three check-downs for receivers, none of which were open. That’s when Bowers took off.
He came careening around the left side of his offensive line. The first 4 yards were a clear path, but two Chiawana defenders waited at the 2-yard line, with a third coming in pursuit from Bowers’ right. A fourth defender came from the end zone. The pylon was open if Bowers wanted to reach out – all he had to do was get the football across the plane of the goal line to score.
In that split second before the hits, Bowers took perhaps the most difficult path – he jumped. Not low and straight to power his way in. Not off to the side to get the pylon. No, in his final high-school football game, the senior quarterback with the gymnastics mother and a background on a trampoline jumped almost straight up.
He was met by two defenders. The first barely got a hand to Bowers, as he started to rise. The second defender tried to go low and made a futile attempt to drive Bowers backward away from the goal line. Instead, Bowers used the defender’s forward momentum to continue rising, rolling over the defender’s back in a front flip and – almost – sticking the landing 2 yards deep in the end zone.
After the game, Bowers still seemed shocked. Sitting in a chair on the sideline, about 10 feet from where he had executed “The Flip,” he admitted that he never thought he could have pulled off something that athletic. The top of his jump had felt like slow motion, as though he had been airborne for five or six seconds. Scrambling had been essential to his game for the better part of his night, as the Chiawana defense brought heavy pressure. Bowers was sacked three times and lost a fumble. But one crazy moment overshadowed those memories.
Bowers’ mother, Joanne, the coach of the women’s gymnastics team at the University of Washington, was asked what score she would give her son. Bainter immediately said a 10. But Joanne Bowers noted that he stepped to the left on his landing and might have lost some points.
Regardless, Bowers will always have the memory and the state championship trophy. I’ll have the memory of how it played out from just 10 feet away, along with my video of “The Flip” that went viral a day later.
Pamela London is a graduate of Shorewood High School in Shoreline and Whitman College in Walla Walla who played on the women’s soccer team for the Division III Missionaries. She works as a sports news assistant for The Seattle Times and was a sports writer, sports editor and managing editor for The Pioneer, Whitman’s student newspaper.
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