Blount Press Row

Christian Soldier

Markham did it all for champion Rebels, and did it well

IMG_1127Maryville Junior High eighth-grader Christian Markham snares a pass in the Smoky Mountain Athletic Conference championship game. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

While football is a team sport played by 11 players on a side, there’s still room for a uniquely talented athlete to make a big, big difference.

Christian Markham

Christian Markham

Gracie's InsideWe selected Maryville Junior High eighth-grader Christian Markham as the Gracie’s Restaurant/Blount Press Row Middle School Player of the Year because of his ability to make a big difference in a lot of difference places.

The Rebels (10-0) carved an unbeaten path through the season to the Smoky Mountain Athletic Conference championship in 2013 with some of the best middle school talent to gather on one team in some time.

From quarterback Dylan Hopkins, a player with the size, skill, speed and arm strength to play almost right away at the high school level, to running back Isaiah Cobb, a complete-package runner with almost scary potential, Maryville lacked few options in 2013.

Even the kicking game was covered, Maryville Christian School transfer and first-year place-kicker Sean Snelgrove delivering the play of the year when his 28-yard field goal in overtime lifted the Rebels to a 17-14 win over rival Alcoa in the SMAC championship game at Maryville High’s Shields Stadium.

Markham turns upfield after the catch.

Markham turns upfield after the catch.

Markham proved that one essential piece that made it all go.

“He’s what I term as the overall football player,” Maryville coach Jay Malone said. “He contributed as much offensively as he did defensively.”

Markham lined up alongside Cobb in the backfield on offense. Cobb would lead the Rebels in rushing yardage and was one of the team’s top scorers. Markham led Maryville in total offense – rushing, receiving and return yards – scoring five touchdowns. The Rebels top receiving threat as well, he had a team-best eight touchdown catches.

In the championship game, Markham distinguished himself with a 56-yard catch-and-run to set up a Cobb 8-yard touchdown run. A 29-yard grab enabled a Hopkins’ 11-yard scoring scamper to give Maryville a 14-8 second quarter lead. Markham made the lead stand at the break with an interception to stop an Alcoa drive as the horn sounded.

“He had a unique way of adjusting his body to the ball,” Malone said. “We saw that in the spring. He was one of those kids — every game — we could depend on. He didn’t have a bad game. There wasn’t one game where Christian didn’t show up.”

As a special teams weapon, Markham added a kickoff returned 80 yards for a score. All told, Markham accounted for more than 1,000 yards offense in 10 games, something only five players in Malone’s 22 seasons as coach at the middle school can claim.

“In half of those 10 games, he didn’t even play in the second half,” Malone said.

Markham also returned punts.

“If somebody were out (injured) for a game, where it would hurt the most I would have to say Christian,” Malone said.

What made Markham special is his productivity didn’t miss a beat when the Rebels were on defense.

Starting at outside linebacker, Markham finished second on the team behind Cobb in tackles. While the middle school game is still largely run-based – a quarterback with Hopkins’ skill set is a rare, rare thing – Markham had the mobility to collect a pair of interceptions on the season, returning one of them for a score.

A champion quarterback at the pee wee and midget level, he can also run the team from behind center. As a pitching prospect in baseball, he’s one of the area’s top rising stars.

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