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Bowden living childhood dream with Leopards

October 17, 2013
By MATTHEW PEASLEE - Tribune Chronicle (sports@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

LIBERTY - Day after day, Lynn Bowden would get tackled, pushed down and run over. Growing up with older cousins in a football-crazed family taught Bowden how to be tough.

"We used to play in the yard all the time," said Bowden, now a freshman at Liberty High School. "They'd throw me down and I would get up and tell them, 'I want more.' "

Being so young and carrying the weight as the Leopards starting running back, Bowden has had to channel those younger days and continue to be tough at the varsity level.

Article Photos

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Liberty’s Lynn Bowden, 6, runs past Girard’s Jacob Ryser during Friday’s game. Bowden is the Tribune Chronicle Player of the Week.

"When I first came here, I knew it was going to be a challenge," Bowden said. "I'm one of the youngest guys and there are older, more experienced guys who are fast and strong. It was tough competition from the start."

He was able to break through in training camp and breakout during the regular season.

Bowden has 1,053 yards in 2013 after a 207-yard, four touchdown performance in Liberty's 40-39 win over Girard last week. For his effort, he's been named the Tribune Chronicle Player of the Week - the first freshman this season to win the honor.

"Am I surprised by his performance?" Leopards first-year coach Kevin Cylar said. "Yes and no. To think that he would come and pretty much dominate, no, I didn't think he would do that.

"I knew he had that type of talent and knew that he had that type of potential, but nobody could forecast what he's done so far."

Cylar has known Bowden since he was 6 years old, playing football in the Youngstown Little League for the Northside Knights.

"He's pretty much a legend over there," Cylar said.

Bowden helped his team win league championships in all eight of his years playing on the Knights. Again, those experiences of success through childhood have helped him become the player he is today.

"This game is like the love of my life," Bowden said. "This is what I've wanted to do since I was a little kid. I dreamed of playing big games as a running back."

He had touchdown runs of 3, 11, 16 and 41 yards in the stunning win over the Indians.

Bowden called it "crazy." Cylar called it "an instant classic."

In a Week 2, 42-33, win over Niles, Bowden made his first start at running back and torched the Red Dragons for 132 yards, with a long of 36, and a touchdown. In Week 1 against Salem, he started at slot receiver.

"I told coach to put me wherever he wanted to put me," Bowden. "I just wanted to play. Now, I'm so fortunate. I look up in the stands on game nights and see the lights on and so many people, it's the most enjoyable thing."

As the Liberty coaching staff got off to a late start over the summer, Bowden did too. It took a while to get him started in a Leopards uniform.

"The first day he came into the locker room," Cylar said, "he was quiet and people were quiet. They knew who he was. It was kind of like, 'Oh here he comes. Here's the new guy.' One of our captains, Da'Quan Carter, was the first guy to shout out and say, 'Hey I got a spot by my locker.'

"I was so happy when that happened. I didn't want to be the one to bridge the gap and make the team accept him. I wanted them to accept him because he's a great player. And they did."

Bowden and Carter were teammates on the Northside Knights. They even call their spot in the locker room "The Northside Knights Corner."

Newton Falls is next for the Leopards, followed by Lakeview and Champion. The Golden Flashes upset Liberty in Week 10 of 2012, though the Leopards still made the playoffs.

"The last three games are winnable, but we've come so close to losing we know that can't happen again," Bowden said. "We can't give one away because that will throw off our playoff hopes.

"Every week is like a playoff game to us. We come to practice hard and play hard. And, you practice how you play."