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Homecoming 2011: Inspiration in shoulder pads

Terry Markovcic is in some rare company. So rare, it may never happen again in the history of Screven County athletics.
As a high school student, Markovcic played quarterback in the 1980s for the Gamecocks. During his senior year in 1984, despite of run-oriented offense, Markovcic passed for 1,001 yards.
In his residence on his mantel, Markovcic has an autographed pigskin with the documented numbers from his prep playing days imprinted on it.
Now the SCHS offensive coordinator, Markovcic – beyond the parental ranks -- also gets to mentor his child who is a varsity player.
As a reader of the Sylvania Telephone, you saw his child on the front page of the newspaper last week as this year’s Homecoming Queen. If you missed that particular edition of the Telephone, or you somehow missed one of the biggest feel-good stories of the year, Markovcic escorted his daughter, the Gamecocks’ placekicker, as part of the Homecoming Court ceremonies at halftime against the Southeast Bulloch.
Dressed in her football uniform of red jersey and red pants, the younger Markovcic – Jessica – stood at mid-field Sept. 16 at the intermission when she and her father would have typically been in the locker room listening to strategies and making adjustments for the final 24 minutes of Friday night action.
But there they were with the fellow members of this year’s court.
Under Jessica’s eyes were the black liners of “Mark” and “11:24.” The passage spoken by Jesus in the Bible says, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
Certainly a befitting verse.
Besides suiting up in pads for football the last two seasons, Jessica also runs cross country during the fall and serves as the Lady Gamecocks’ soccer goalie in the spring.
“As a coach speaking, she is a very dedicated player who works hard to get better every day and is very competitive,” said Terry Markovcic of his daughter. “She goes to cross country practice then to football afterwards. I have been impressed over the past two seasons how well she handles the pressure of playing a normally all-male sport, as well as dealing with the pressure of making kicks. That’s not easy, but she has handled it better than probably I have. I’m usually the one who is the most nervous.”
And then your daughter is voted by the student body as Homecoming Queen.
“As a father speaking, what can I say? I never thought she would excel at high school sports like she has,” Coach Markovcic says. “Not in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine my daughter would play on the same field I once did and then be named Homecoming Queen as well. Her mother and I are as proud as we can possibly be. But her senior year of football, cross country, and soccer is not over yet. There is still work to be done!”
He should know. The beaming Dad also is the SCHS girls soccer head coach. Jessica has plans to attend Toccoa College to play soccer.
As for the Homecoming ceremonies, Jessica said she never even thought about doing some modified quick change at the mid-game break like ditching her shoulder pads and throwing on an evening gown that would adequately cover her football pants in an effort to be more of a Homecoming Court traditionalist.
Nope, she wore the uniform – minus the helmet.
Twelve months from now in 2012 Jessica will have her presence requested at Kelly Memorial Stadium to crown next year’s queen.
Her attire for that evening?
“I will try to make up for this one and try to look pretty,” said Jessica with a smile.
She says her football teammates “love her like their little sister.”
How could someone not cast a ballot for his little sister?
The high school senior says she was “in shock and surprised” to be voted as the SCHS queen. Her reaction to when public announcer Jason Teal called out her name also fit with her astonishment.
She smiled – she does that a lot – looked at her father, pumped her fist (raising her pink armband in the process), and got a well-deserved hug from her father.
“He told me he loved me,” Jessica said of her Dad.
In the stands, Jessica had an estimated 40 family and friends who, yes, were in attendance for some football, but notably more so for the halftime festivities.
“My Momma, I think she loves the ‘moment,’” Jessica said of Candy Markovcic. “My Mom put the crown in the middle of the living room when we got home.”
Aunt Patti LeMaster threw Jessica a party, complete with a sheet cake with field goal crossbars, a football helmet, and the crown.
Jessica has gained local, state and national recognition for her Homecoming Queen crowning. That kind of thing happens when a female football player claims such an honor. It also was a big deal in Chippewa, Ohio, last year when it happened for a young lady. Like Jessica, Jackie Kasburg wore her football uniform. So did Jade Montgomery in Monroe, N.C. In 2009, Ashley Drury was selected queen in Haskell, Okla. Drury, however, did the quick change at halftime and then back to the football uni for half No. 2.
Personally, I believe the three J’s -- Jessica, Jackie and Jade – all made the right choice to stay with the pads.
As tradition, seven queen candidates were part of the SCHS Homecoming Court. Interesting enough, Markovcic and four others had lettered in sports thus far this year or last season. The other two court members are major components in their respective service clubs. Any of the girls would have represented the high school and community well as the winner. 
Jessica says she and the other players didn’t talk about the whole queen possibility during the first half of the game two weeks ago. All their focus instead was on the battle on the field and their opponent Southeast Bulloch, who fell as 20-0 victims to the Gamecocks that evening.
Screven County returns home Friday night looking to regain its footing in the region after a slip on the road last week. Looking for another football player/Homecoming Queen at Screven County High School may take quite a search. It could another 100 years from now or possibly never.
Then again, who knows. Maybe a girls middle school soccer player will want to add high school football placekicking to her list of sports. Then again maybe a young lady will come along who can play a different position like receiver, safety or possibly quarterback.
What Jessica Markovcic accomplished Sept. 16 is an inspiration to others. She could have stayed with only cross country and soccer. However, she challenged herself more and took on a sport where black-and-blue forearmed players in jerseys stained with dark brown mud and bright red blood, wage war in the combative trenches to push an oval ball forward. 
That visual isn’t the first choice of places to routinely find a Queen, but neither is one of a person racing against others for 3.1 miles on a cross country course or stretching out airborne to divert a 40-mph soccer ball strike from darting into the net.
But that’s what our new Homecoming Queen does.

Enoch Autry is the publish-editor of the Sylvania Telephone.