Pictured standing, fourth from the left, mustachioed, is Warren Bowen, the founder of Barnstable High School football.
Pictured standing, fourth from left, holding, ostensibly, the first football ever used at Barnstable High is a mustachioed young man who in 1893 had taken it upon himself to form his school’s first-ever football team. Little could Warren R. Bowen (BHS Class of 1895) have known at the time that what he set out to do in the autumn of 1893 would forever change the landscape of athletics at BHS.
With baseball the only organized and recognized school sport a the time, Bowen opted in the fall of 1893 to put together a 12-man roster of fellow students to try their hand at this new game of Americanized rugby. Granted, the Ivy League and other schools had already formed teams and been playing for some time, but there were no other high school teams on Cape Cod at the time. Bowen served as the team’s first de facto captain, its manager, its chief ball carrier and he wore every other possible hat affiliated with the operation of a high school football team. BHS did not have a coach then. The boys were on their own and on November 12, 1893, Barnstable took on its first-ever gridiron opponent, Sandwich High School, at the “casino Grounds” in Sandwich, losing the affair, 6-4. A game was then scheduled versus New Bedford a few weeks later, but the New Bedford boys “never showed up,” according to the December 5, Evening Edition of the Barnstable Patriot.Regardless, Bowen and his crew of 11 teammates forged onward and in the fall of 1894 continued to try their hand at this fun, new game. The team’s followers began to grow and by 1895, with Bowen graduated, the Red Raiders as they would later come to be known, played their first-ever game versus eventual archrival Falmouth.
The seeds sown by Bowen are remarkable as they were simple. But if there is any factor that points toward Bowen’s qualifications, then it is this: since Bowen’s formation of BHS football, some 5,000 young men have worn the Red & White colors on the gridiron and to this day it ranks as one of the nation’s most successful high school football programs.