Big 33 Football Classic: Pierce leaves his mark, ends storied career in Maryland’s 26-14 loss

Pennsylvania defeats Maryland in the 59th Big 33 classic, 26-14

Mark Pierce played in his final football game on Saturday night, leaving a lasting legacy behind that includes two state championships. Photo taken by Alycia Weaver/Maryland Sports Access.

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.”


Box score

  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final
Team PA 6 13 7 0 26
Team MD 0 0 0 14 14


Scoring summary

        PA MD
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

Passing Comp. Att, Yards Comp. % TD INT QBR
#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
TOTAL 9 24 132 37.5% 1 2 35.41


Rushing Att. Yards Avg. TD Long
#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
TOTAL 21 54 2.6 0 25


Receiving Rec. Yards Avg. TD Long
#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
TOTAL 9 132 14.7 1 33
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About Kyle McFadden 270 Articles
Kyle McFadden is a graduate from Linganore High's Class of 2014 and is a sports enthusiast. He got his start as a sports writer in January 2014 for LHS's student newspaper The Lance where he wrote 13 articles. McFadden then launched his own blog in October 2014 called The Beltway Dispatch covering collegiate, local high school, and professional sports. Formally known as The Beltway Dispatch, McFadden and Evan Engelhard merged each other's respective platforms in June 2015 to make what is now Maryland Sports Access. He brings plenty of sports knowledge to the helm of MSA as he has baseball, basketball and golf experience. McFadden covers a wide variety of sports in football, baseball, basketball, golf, hockey, lacrosse, soccer and specializes in the collegiate and high school level's. McFadden is volunteers his time at Damascus Road Community Church -- serving as a mentor to the youth, basketball coach at the varsity and junior varsity levels, and leads a small group of high school sophomores every Wednesday night. Although he has only been around journalism since January 2014, his work has appeared in Maryland newspapers such as The Daily Times (Delmarva Now), The Hometown Observer, Germantown Pulse, and regularly in the The Frederick News-Post. He's also won two Frederick News-Post Mike Powell Excellence in Journalism awards and has appeared on The Best of SNO, which showcases top student work of high school and college journalists. McFadden also holds positions at The Frederick News-Post as a freelance sports journalist, DMVelite as a high school basketball writer and analyst, as a Maryland high school football analyst, and as a staff writer for Maryland's Yahoo! Rivals. McFadden currently studies at Frederick Community College and plans to transfer to the University of Maryland in the fall of 2017 to work on a bachelor's degree in business and journalism as he has aspirations to be a columnist for ESPN.
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1 Comment on Big 33 Football Classic: Pierce leaves his mark, ends storied career in Maryland’s 26-14 loss

  1. I can’t believe no one offered Pierce an opportunity. I’ve watched his entire carerr at Northwest, and have been continually impressed with his poise, his leadership, and of course his skills. Unlike many QBs, especially at the high school level, Pierce is extremely accurate with his short and medium-range throws, as well as with the long ball. Pierce has made many plays on his own, scrambling away from would-be tacklers to complete a pass downfield, or to run for yardage. I hope that he at least tries out as a walk-on; it would be a tremendous waste of talent if he never plays again.

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