For Eli Stowers, a state championship was within reach.
The starting quarterback for the Guyer High School football team, Stowers helped lead the Wildcats on an impressive playoff run in 2019 which included victories over Hebron, Cedar Hill, Arlington, Amarillo Tascosa and Houston Westfield.
The title game was set, and pitted Guyer against Austin Westlake, two of the top teams in the state in what was sure to be a battle royale.
Then the unthinkable happened.
The Texas A&M commit sustained a knee injury during the first series and had to sit out the rest of the game.
“It was heartbreaking,” Stowers said. “To get hurt on that first drive, and not really have a chance to play or contribute to the team at that point. Really all I could do was to support my team vocally on the sideline and try to give them some hope. And that’s why we want to try to get back there this year.”
Guyer lost to Westlake by a score of 24-0 in its quest for their third state championship in school history.
Stowers, an all-state selection, said the only really good thing that came out of his injury was that it made him that much more determined to help lead his team back to the state championship game in 2020.
“When you get there, and have that feeling of not being able to do anything and seeing your team lose when you’re not even on the field, it’s one of the most difficult things to see, especially as a leader,” Stowers said. “So the determination to get back there this year is even more so than it was last year.”
Stowers passed for 2,969 yards and 36 touchdowns last season with only 4 interceptions, and rushed for 1,166 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound passer said his objectives for this season are pretty straightforward.
“We made it to state last year and fell short,” Stowers said. “So we want to be able to get back there. I just want to put in the work this offseason and adjust to the new coaching staff and build the chemistry with the younger kids that are going to play this year.”
Stowers has been rehabbing his knee post-surgery for most of the offseason and said his confidence is increasing daily.
“Rehab’s going real well,” Stowers said. “As of right now, I can pretty much do everything unless it starts to bother me, so I’m feeling really blessed to be where I am. I’m just ready to get back as soon as I can.”
Rodney Webb assumed the head coaching position at Guyer for the 2020 season and said he is very much aware of what Stowers brings to the table.
“Eli is an elite athlete,” Webb said. “He’s got a wealth of experience at the position, and he has a tremendous football IQ. All of those qualities are huge benefits to a quarterback.”
Webb said this bodes especially well for 2020.
“The quarterback is the most important position on the field,” Webb said. “I’ve always believed it’s bad coaching if you don’t have a productive quarterback.”
Webb said his goal for Stowers this season is to do what he is capable of doing on the field.
“I just want Eli to be healthy and efficient,” Webb said. “We have plenty of playmakers on offense, and we’d like him to be a great distributor.”
Stowers said for him, this whole situation has taught him a lot about who he is.
“My rehab process has really helped me to grow in my faith in God and to trust in him throughout this whole process,” Stowers said.
“It’s also taught me that I can endure things that I didn’t think that I could endure before, because I had never had anything like that happen to me. I think it was a real good learning experience. God makes things happen for a reason.”