Every day during Central York football practice, many of the team's top wide receivers line up and wait to take their shots against cornerback Jordan Bowie.
The senior is the team's top cover man and is one of a kind in the York-Adams League. Rarely will teams allow one high school defensive back to play man-to-man with no safety help. Bowie, however, is an exception. He has a knack for shutting down wide receivers, earning him the nickname "Bowie Island."
During practices, Sakai Barton, Eddie Santiago and the Panthers' other top receivers take turns trying to turn "Bowie Island" into a vacation destination. On Friday nights, however, "Bowie Island" is hardly a place where receivers want to venture, acting more like a Bermuda Triangle where they disappear from offensive game plans.
"I love the pressure," Bowie said during a practice earlier this season. "To be a (defensive back), you have to have confidence in yourself. I like the pressure on me because it makes me want to perform better for my teammates. Anything to help my team win, that's all that matters."
Legend of "Bowie Island": Bowie's knack for playing lock-down coverage on defense can be traced back to his upbringing in the city of York.
Playing backyard football with his friends, they'd never run the ball, so it was up to him to learn how to defend the passing game, or else he was toast. Bowie learned pretty quickly. As he made his way through youth football and middle school, his skills at the position grew. By the time he reached his freshman year of high school, he knew he wanted to be a cornerback for York High.
"Growing up, having played backyard football, it pretty much taught me how to play coverage," he said. "So, when I got to high school I knew what I wanted to do and what position I wanted to play."
As a freshman, that's when he got the nickname of "Bowie Island" from current Northeastern quarterback Shannon Valenti and Shannon's father. The name stuck ever since.
Fifth year: Back in June, a decision by the PIAA favored Central York this season. That same decision also made it a nightmare for opposing wide receivers on the Panthers' schedule.
Bowie had a rocky freshman year. He suffered from health problems and also jumped around from three different schools in two different states. As a result, the PIAA granted him a fifth year of athletic eligibility earlier this summer.
Bowie began his high school career at York High, where he played his freshman season for the Bearcats. However, midway through the year, he moved to Florida and attended Mainland High School, the same one that produced former NBA star Vince Carter and current New York Jets defensive end Leonard Williams. After a short stint there, he relocated back to York County and enrolled at Central York. But, as he prepared to begin his sophomore year, there was one problem.
"When I came here (Central York), I only had 3 1/2 (of seven necessary) credits," he said. "So, it was either go to 10th grade and re-do my whole freshman year classes, or I could just re-class and I said I'd re-class since I didn't learn anything at York High, so I just came here and started all over."
So, re-classed, Bowie continued on with his high school academic and football career, only to realize that after last year, he was out of his four years of athletic eligibility with one year of schooling remaining. So, he talked with the school counselor, who then told athletic director Marty Trimmer that the school would need to submit a waiver request to the PIAA for him to get a special fifth season.
When Bowie was granted the exemption, it was right back to work for one of the most important players on the Panthers' defense.
Living up to the name: It's no surprise that Bowie's favorite player is Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks.
Widely considered one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, Sherman made his name by covering some of the game's best wide receivers, shutting them down and turning his half of the field into a no-passing zone.
That's what Bowie has done for the Central defense this year.
Listed at just 5-feet, 9-inches and 155 pounds, he's one of the smaller players on the field. However, he more than makes up for it with his play.
"He's not the biggest corner in the league, but he's aggressive," defensive backs/special teams/wide receivers coach George Touras said. "He'll go after you. He wants to be a positive influence on the defensive side of the ball."
He's a blessing for the Panthers because most teams have to play zone coverage, where players will cover specific areas on the field as opposed to following around one player. Bowie has the right attitude to play the role, bordering the line between confident and cocky. He knows that, even if you do beat him once, you likely won't succeed a second time.
So far this season, Bowie leads the Y-A League with three interceptions in six games to go along with 17 tackles, six pass breakups and two fumble recoveries. As a unit, the Central pass defense is allowing just more than 103 yards per game. Bowie's three interceptions and two fumble recoveries account for more than a third of Central's 14 forced turnovers this season.
Bowie has drawn college interest from a number of NCAA Division II and Division III schools.
There's no doubt that Bowie has quite the nickname to live up to.
So far, however, he's turned his island into a place that receivers should avoid at all costs.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com.