Presenting Mr. Bowers…hasn’t missed in 32 years
Ladies and gentlemen . . . presenting 1967 Genoa grad Wade Bower, the "unofficial standard bearer" of "Comet Nation," who has had a reserved seat ticket for 327 straight Genoa football games and 32 celebrated seasons.
That's roughly 15,696 minutes of Comet football for all those counting.
"All I can say is that I just love high school football, and that's the bottom line," mumbles Bower, 60.
"Personally, I don't like to call it a streak, because really it's just a passion of mine. I just love to go to these high school football games. I love the competition between the boys out there. And I just love being there out at the stadium come Friday, and watching Genoa Comets football, and other Genoa sports, too, really," he said.
"These teams and these players, they play for the love of the game, and it's more pure. It's not all about the money, or playing for a pro contract, like it is in college and the NFL. It's for the love of the game. You can't beat high school sports. And you can bet me and Wade will be out to the game as always, this next Friday night."
Bower’s historic game streak was recognized a little over two years ago, during the final regular season game of the 2007 campaign, in Tontogony of all places, and at the annual Genoa-Otsego game, where thanks to an impromptu trip by Genoa Schools superintendent Denny Mock to the press box, Knights' public address announcer John Brown gave Bower props for his then 300-game milestone.
"It was right about at the end of the third quarter, and he just announced that Genoa had had a special fan in Wade Bower there at Otsego Stadium that night," remembers Bower.
"He said that it was my 300th consecutive Genoa football game. Congratulations Wade Bower. And things like that. And I don't think anybody on the Otsego side reacted too much, but the Genoa fans who made the trip sure did. They all stood up, and clapped, and after the game, as we were all walking out, I remember everybody was coming up to me, and shaking my hand, and patting me on the back, and saying 'Congratulations on your streak'."
"I had no idea Dennis was going to do that or that they were going to say anything at all that night. Sure, it was nice being recognized,” offers Bower.
The now locally-famous "streak," or "passion" as Bower prefers to tag it, didn't get it's enduring start until the 1978 season. Then, the head coach was Dave Hitchen, who went 28-31-1in his six years from 1977-'82.
Bowers remembers, since the Hitchen era ended, a string of men, such as Bob Baird, Grover Dowell, John Boles, Jeff Wood, Bill Hrabek, Bill Jones, and of course G-Town's newest favorite son, Mike Vicars.
Bowers still tabs legendary coach Jim Firestone (1959-'76, 109-60-1) as his all-time favorite.
Some of his most cherished moments came in the 1989 season under Coach Boles. Led by all-SLL quarterback Jeff Benavides, the Comets went 10-0, and took out Northwood in the season finale to win the league crown, only to be shunned from the playoffs.
Bowers remembers an ugly contest at Otsego in the '92 season, when it rained and rained, and the two teams punted back and forth all night long until finally running back Jim Mazey slipped and slid his way to the end zone on a 20-yard run, to give the Comets a 7-6 decision.
Bowers remembers the Eastwood-Genoa heavyweight slugfest of '07, which attracted media attention and fans from all over is still the greatest football game Bower claims he's ever seen.
Of course, there is Genoa's first-ever playoff appearance against Sparta-Highland in Vicar's first season at the helm, as well as last year's historic, deep state playoff run all the way to the Division 4 Ohio prep final four, after which Wade is certain the Comets would've went on, and won its first-ever state championship, if only they could've hung on against a bigger Kettering Archbishop Alter squad.
How about those years when his Comets went entirely defeated?
"There have been none that I can recall," he defends quickly, as Genoa has usually managed to earn a win or two.
Bowers has endured all kinds of adverse weather conditions for his favorite team, like for instance the heat of the first few weeks of last year's final-four season when the mercury soared into the '90s.
On the other extreme, there was the cold, of the '07 and '08 playoff games against Sparta-Highland, Eastwood, Ottawa-Glandorf and Alter. Then there is the lightning in the '07 opener on the road against rival Oak Harbor in the "Celestial Bowl," and the game was called due to nasty thunderstorms, only to be resumed the next day in a Rockets' victory, 14-7.
Bower’s real journey as one of G-Town's greatest backers began way back as varsity golfer for the Comets and a promising power forward in hoops, for which he won four letters and one letter respectively back in the mid-to-late 1960s.
1995 Genoa graduate Wade Bower, Jr. and his father, 1967 graduate Wade Bower, say they have gone through five vehicles driving to Comet football games. (Press photo by Harold Hamilton/www.hehphotos.com).