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Bowers shows improved ball-security and speed in his return to Ozark backfield


Ozark running back Jack Bowers didn’t have to wait long to see how his right wrist would hold up to contact during jamboree action Friday.

On Ozark’s first offensive play against Kickapoo, Bowers received a handoff and was drilled almost immediately by All-Ozark Conference First-Team linebacker Paxton Wehner in the Tigers’ backfield. 

The good news was Bowers held tightly onto the ball even as the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Wehner tried to strip it from his hands.

It was Bowers’ first Friday night carry in almost two years, after he broke his right wrist in the pre-season last year.

“Sophomore year, I had a few fumbles. But I've come back stronger and have got a better grip now,” said Bowers, who ran for 451 yards on 77 carries two years ago. “Ball security, we work on it every day. We have a gauntlet drill in which we have four guys lined up trying to rip the ball out of our hands to get better ball security.

“I feel more confident about everything,” he added.

Bowers has reason to feel good about the seemingly endless effort he’s made to improve his speed. A sprinter for Ozark’s track team, he broke free for a run of 30 yards against Nixa, while jetting past the Eagles’ edge defenders.

“It was supposed to be a ‘B gap’ run, but it didn't open up so I had to use my speed to get outside of the corner and linebackers,” Bowers said. “I’ve done a lot of acceleration work. It's all about playing it patient, waiting for the gaps and then as soon as you see space, you've got to hit it as fast as you can.”

There have been similarities in the careers of Bowers and 2023 Ozark grad Jacob Kronebush, most notably both didn’t play their junior year due to injuries. Kronebusch’s season-ending shoulder injury in a jamboree two years ago came to mind when Bowers reported he “tweaked my calf a little bit” on his 30-yard run.

Fortunately, Bowers related it was only a brief scare and that his calf was feeling fine afterward.

“I’m making it to Game One (at Carl Junction next week),” he said.

TIGERS NOTES: Sophomore Peyton Russell appears to have won the starting quarterback job, as he took all the snaps with the first-team offense. ...

Also taking snaps from center were freshman Tristen Coon and converted tight end Jaxson Selsor. ...

Standout tight end Jace Whatley was targeted twice, with both passes being incomplete. ...

Tight end Ryan Shelton recovered a fumble. ...

Defensive lineman Tyler Cyrier posted a quarterback sack. ...

Jayden Washington, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound junior, made his presence known by being active along the defensive line. ...

Ozark’s offense turned the ball over three times, losing two fumbles and throwing an interception.