On Friday night, Northwest senior Ryan Markush was one of the first players to rip through the blue paper banner held by the cheerleaders during pregame introductions, a banner that read: “We Won’t Remember the Titans.” The slogan turned out to be more prophetic than presumptuous. And certainly, the Einstein Titans will remember Markush.
The senior wide receiver electrified the home crowd with a 73-yard punt return in the first quarter and added two touchdown catches as Northwest made quick work of Einstein in a 42-14 nonleague win in Germantown.
It was a terrific week for Markush. He was sitting at home on Monday evening, surfing the Internet, when he came across a fresh new tweet announcing that he had been invited to play in the Maryland Crab Bowl all-star game later this fall – and he was ecstatic. The news circulated around Twitter. Teammates texted him, and even the announcers at Friday night’s game were calling him Ryan “Crab Bowl” Markush.
Markush fielded the first punt of the game on a hop, faked left and then cut across the field and went untouched down the sideline for the game’s first score.
“It was just a lot of nice blocking,” said Markush. “Right when I caught the ball, I saw a wide open lane.”
Northwest (6-2), which made a game-time decision not to start senior quarterback Matty Callahan due to a lingering ankle injury, was superior in all three phases of the game in winning its fourth straight contest. Tyler Ambush scored on the Jaguars’ first two offensive possessions to help make it 22-0 midway through the first quarter, and Einstein (4-4) didn’t cross the 50-yard line in the first half.
The Titans’ Khalil Wilson, who entered the game with 1,129 yards rushing through seven games, was held to 42 yards on 16 carries. He didn’t have a double-digit gain until a 12-yard burst with about four minutes left in the second quarter.
“I don’t know if you saw him,” said Northwest Coach Mike Neubeiser of Wilson, “but he has legs like tree trunks. We had our work cut out for us. They rallied to the football.”
Markush caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Gills, who filled in for Callahan, in the second quarter to extend the Jaguars’ lead to 35-0, and Gills (163 yards passing) lofted a 25-yard pass that Markush ran under for a score in the fourth quarter.
By that point, the announcers in the Northwest booth were consistently reminding fans to show up early for next week’s showdown with Sherwood (6-2), and Neubeiser said Callahan will be available for that game. And it had seemed like ages since Markush had returned the punt back in the first quarter. The play set the tone for the night. For Markush, springing free was the best feeling during this memorable week.
“The punt return,” said Markush with a smile, “is probably what I will remember the most.”