Following his worst moment, Bothell quarterback Ross Bowers realized how to move toward his best.

After throwing four interceptions in a Class 4A state quarterfinal loss to Bellarmine Prep last season, including one on each of his team’s final two possessions, he’d hit bottom.

But he wasn’t about to stay there.

“I had a very, very bad game. It left a bad taste in my mouth. That really drove me this offseason to never have that feeling again,” said Bowers, who plans to sign with the University of California this fall.

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Bothell opens the season defending a No. 1 ranking in Class 4A in The Associated Press poll. If the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Bowers has it his way, the hard work will pay off with a state championship.

Bowers went to work quickly after the devastating loss to Bellarmine.

“I’m a complete team guy, and I think you win as a team,” he said. “But with the position I play, you can never win the game for your team. You can lose it for your team. And, on that day, I definitely lost it for my team. Looking around our locker room, that definitely broke me, seeing seniors who would never have a chance to play football again. That was probably one of the worst feelings of my life.”

In Bowers, coach Tom Bainter sees someone who is ready for a big year.

“Ross is an extremely motivated person right now,” Bainter said. “He is using that game as motivation. He’s worked extremely hard.

“He’s been involved in a number of spring and summer activities. He’s gained some weight. He’s increased his arm strength. His foot speed is a little better. His ability to move from one read to another is much quicker. Everything’s improved.”

Good things started rolling for Bowers in midsummer. He verbally committed to Cal in July and was also picked to participate in the finals of the EA Sports Elite 11, the nation’s premier quarterback camp for high-school athletes held in Beaverton, Ore. He was one of 18 quarterbacks selected nationally from a pool of 4,000-plus.

Bothell finished 9-3 last year and won the KingCo 4A Crest Division. With the defection of the Seattle schools from KingCo 4A, it’s a wide-open, nine-team race.

The Cougars possess enough offensive firepower to go far in the playoffs with running back Sam McPherson, receiver Dayzell Wilson and tight end Cole Ford but a big question mark is whether their offensive line can come through.

Bothell reached the 4A state final in 2006 and 2007 and settled for second place both years.

Will it be Bowers who leads them back?

“Ross has just held onto that (loss last year), and he relives that feeling,” Bainter said. “Sometimes you need something to motivate yourself on a given day. Whenever he gets tired or doesn’t feel like lifting another weight, I think that is his motivation.”