HERSHEY PARK, Pa. — Mark Pierce has a lot to be proud of. A garnered legacy, which includes two state championships and rewritten record books, has been inked for decades to come.
For the final time, Pierce slipped off his helmet and soaked in the postgame atmosphere, posing for photo ops and signing autographs for kids who view him as a role model. On Saturday night in Hershey Park, it was the end of a storied football career.
“This is it,” Pierce said after Maryland’s 26-14 loss to Pennsylvania in the Big 33 classic. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
After a remarkable three year run, which concludes in a 35-6 record and two state crowns, you’d think Pierce is shuffling through college offers to carry on what he’s best known for.
Oddly enough, the two-time state champion quarterback and honor roll student didn’t garner enough interest to continue his football career.
Dubbed “Marky Mark”, Pierce will go down as one of the best quarterback’s in Montgomery County history. His head coach, Michael Neubeiser, said he’ll be remembered for his poise, football knowledge, and unrivaled leadership and toughness.
“Coming into high school, I just wanted to be remembered,” Pierce said. “Hopefully, going down the line, when people think of Northwest High School, they remember the name, ‘Marky Mark’.”
For Pierce, it’s a tough pill to swallow. But he’s more than content with attending Towson University in the fall of 2016 to major in accounting and business. Instead of hanging his head, Pierce flashed a wide smile more times than not on Saturday night.
The list of quarterbacks to start in the Big 33 classic flairs in prestige — Ben Roethlisberger, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, and now, Mark Pierce.
“To be selected for a game like this, it’s a very humbling experience,” Pierce said, who completed five of his 15 passes for 72 yards while gaining 21 yards on the ground during Saturday night’s contest. “The whole week, with our buddies. … It’s crazy how close you can get to some people only knowing them five days.”
On paper, Maryland was substantially outnumbered. Of the 34 players on each roster, Pennsylvania deployed 18 Power-5 signees compared to Maryland’s two — linebacker Cameron Brown and wide receiver Dae’lun Darien, both committed to Penn State.
Pennsylvania’s Miles Sanders earned MVP with his 96 total yards and three touchdown performance. The Penn State commit hauled in a 21-yard touchdown pass at the 8:52 mark in the first quarter to give Pennsylvania a 6-0 lead.
Sanders scored his second and third touchdowns on a five-yard rush at the 8:17 mark in the second quarter to extend Pennsylvania’s lead to 12-0 and then on a 21-yard burst with 8:59 to go in the third to swell the lead to 26-0.
Maryland’s lone two scores came when Shawn Bliss (Sherwood graduate) completed a 33-yard pass to Darien with 5:53 remaining and a 62-yard interception return by Northwest graduate Martin Foray in the waning minutes.
The four turnovers plagued Maryland’s chances throughout the contest. Despite the struggling effort, Pierce will cherish his final game for many years to come.
“You’re supposed to have fun, that’s what I did tonight,” Pierce said.
Pierce says his favorite memory is when Northwest won the 2013 Class 4A state championship over Suitland.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better career,” Pierce said. “Playing with guys I’ve grown up with since the age of five, win those two state championships.”
Though his quarterback days are over, Pierce will seek to stay involved in football through coaching.
“My high school career, I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Pierce said. “Loved all the coaches, all the teammates that I played with, all the teams I was on. I’m glad that I got my name out there and made a name for myself. You know, I just had fun.”
|1st||8:52||PA||Miles Sanders 21-yard pass from Devante Cross (PAT failed)||6||0|
|2nd||8:17||PA||Miles Sanders 5-yard run (2-pt conv. failed)||12||0|
|5:54||PA||Jo-El Shaw 3-yard run (Cushma kick)||19||0|
|3rd||8:59||PA||Miles Sanders 19-yard run (Cushma kick)||26||0|
|4th||5:53||MD||Dae-lun Darien 33-yard pass from Shawn Bliss (Shinsky kick)||26||7|
|1:43||MD||Martin Foray, Jr. 62-yard interception return (Shinsky kick)||26||14|
Team Maryland individual statistics
|#10 Mark Pierce (Northwest)||5||15||72||33.33%||0||1||22.08|
|#9 Shawn Bliss (Sherwood)||4||9||60||44.44%||1||1||64.35|
|#1 Michael Johnson (Owings Mills)||2||23||11.5||0||25|
|#10 Mark Pierce (Northwest)||4||21||5.3||0||9|
|#3 Pete Boone (Old Mill)||8||19||2.4||0||6|
|#20 Rakeem Darden (Suitland)||4||3||0.8||0||10|
|#22 Greg Leonard (Patuxent)||1||-5||-5.0||0||-5|
|#9 Shawn Bliss (Sherwood)||2||-7||-3.5||0||7|
|#1 Michael Johnson (Owings Mills)||4||66||16.5||0||31|
|#2 Dae-lun Darien (Dunbar)||2||40||20.0||1||33|
|#21 Cameron Brown (Bullis)||2||21||10.5||0||18|
|#34 William Huff (Meade)||1||5||5.0||0||5|