Screven County High’s Jessica Markovcic must really love a good challenge.
Not content with competing in one sport, she’ll participate in three. Not fazed by what might be considered the typical sports she could play, she’s in her second year as the Gamecocks’ placekicker. Finally, overcoming the numerous pitfalls of high school students that can affect social standing, she’s also Screven’s reigning homecoming queen.
The Gamecocks celebrated homecoming Sept. 16 against their old rivals from Southeast Bulloch. The Gamecocks had the crowd buzzing, taking a 14-0 lead into halftime, but then things took a turn for the abnormal.
While the rest of her teammates trotted into the locker room, Markovcic remained on the field, her muddy uniform in stark contrast with the evening gowns of the other finalists for queen.
Just moments later, a part of that outfit changed as Markovcic traded in her red football helmet for a sparkling crown.
“It was all kind of crazy,” Markovcic said. “I had no idea what to expect. I was kind of surprised when I saw my name on the ballot. It was great to win, but then I had to go right back to the sidelines for the second half.”
As the rest of the Gamecocks made their way back onto the field, the scene on the bench could have been easily confused for hallway gossip between classes.
“Everyone wanted to know what happened,” she said. “They all congratulated me. I think that most of them voted for me, and that’s why I won.”
A football player being named homecoming queen might make for a strange headline, but Markovcic’s spot amongst her teammates on the field each week has become commonplace.
Markovcic has been solid as the Gamecocks’ go-to girl for kicks. A knee injury slowed her down a bit in the opening month of the season, but now she is healthy and putting footballs through the uprights at a pace not many Screven kickers matched in recent history.
“I don’t think it matters at all that she’s a girl,” said Screven quarterback Aikeem Mingle. “She does a good job and is a good teammate. That’s what counts.”
In fact, Markovcic is adamant that her gender was never an issue — even when she first strapped on a helmet last season.
“Everyone has always treated me well and never any differently,” Markovcic said. “It’s never been an issue at all. The only change in the last two years is that we’ve all come together better as a team.”
When not in shoulder pads, Markovcic also competes on the Gamecocks’ cross country team and will be the starting goalkeeper for the Lady Gamecocks’ soccer squad this spring.
All of those extracurricular activities would keep most kids away from their families, but Markovcic is never far from home.
Jessica’s father, Terry Markovcic, is around his daughter constantly, teaching her at school during the day and coaching her in football and soccer during the afternoons.
“My favorite time of day is the six periods where she isn’t in my class,” Terry Markovcic joked. “But she’s a great girl. She works very hard in sports and in the classroom.”
Terry Markovcic also found himself in a strange place during the homecoming game, as he remained on the field to escort his daughter instead of making halftime adjustments. Still, he knew where his priorities were.
“During halftime, I was just a proud daddy,” he said. “There was still a game to play, but when they announced that she had won, that was just a great moment to share together.”
After the football season wraps up, father and daughter will get more opportunities for on-field moments as Jessica Markovcic patrols the soccer goal for Screven. The Gamecocks lost a good bit of talent in departed seniors from last season, but retains one of the best goalkeepers in the region.
“I just want to enjoy my senior year in school and in sports,” she said.
From there, it will be on to the next test as she plans to attend Taccoa Falls to play soccer collegiately.
Making the leap is a big challenge, but Markovcic has made a habit of proving that she can accomplish whatever she sets her mind to — either with the power and determination of an athlete or the elegant smile and wave of a queen.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.