As Providence Day won a North Carolina high school football championship last week, Jacolbe Cowan delivered in some of the critical moments.
Cowan, an Ohio State-committed defensive end, had a strip-sack, and then as a tight end caught a pass on fourth down in the fourth quarter, helping the team secure a 28-13 win over Metrolina Christian Academy in the private school Division II title game.
“He constantly finds ways to make plays,” Providence Day coach Adam Hastings said. “And not just that, he cared about his teammates. He's a leader. He did whatever you asked him to do. He's just a really great kid to be around.”
Throughout the season, Cowan was a key part of a talented defensive line that also included Kedrick Bingley-Jones, another blue-chip recruit who is committed to North Carolina.
Cowan finished with 42 tackles and 12 sacks for the Chargers. He also caught 12 passes as a tight end, playing offense as well as defense for much of the season.
In recent seasons, Providence Day, located in Charlotte, has produced a variety of college-bound standouts who starred for its defense, including Elijiah Brown, a defensive tackle at Duke, and twin brothers Osita Ekwonu, who ended up at Notre Dame as a linebacker, and Ikem Ekwonu, who landed at North Carolina as an offensive guard after also playing defensive tackle.
One of the things that has distinguished Cowan is his size. Hastings thinks he is about 6 feet 5 and 280 pounds and said he has a lanky frame that allows him to be disruptive in the backfield and navigate the line of scrimmage.
“He's long, but he has an ability to bend,” Hastings said. “He plays really low. A lot of times for a long, tall guy, if you play high, you can get blocked really easily. He does a great job, especially on pass rush, to get underneath offensive linemen.”
Hastings began coaching Cowan when the teen debuted on the school's varsity team as a freshman in 2016.
The natural talent emerged, and Hastings thinks Cowan made steady improvements throughout his high school career.
“He's really athletic,” Hastings said, “but I think most players at his level have a really good skill set and are really talented. I think what sets him apart from other people, or what makes him different and special, is his drive. His remarkable drive and his passion for excellence is special.”
Last month, Cowan announced his commitment to Ohio State as its highest-rated defensive linemen in the class for 2020, according to 247Sports' composite rankings, joining in-state commits Ty Hamilton and Darrion Henry.
As he helped push Providence Day toward its first state championship since 2011, Cowan had one of his biggest games in September while several of the team's other key players were out with illnesses. In a win over Charlotte Country Day, he had two sacks and returned an interception almost 90 yards for a touchdown.
“There's an adage that players make plays,” Hastings said, “and he's definitely demonstrated that in his four years.”