HINESVILLE, Ga. (WSAV) – Markel Johnson has been a ‘big-game player’ from the moment he earned a starting spot on the Liberty County High School football team.
As a sophomore, Johnson picked off a Statesboro pass and returned it for a game-winning touchdown. Just three weeks ago, on live television, Johnson scored four touchdowns and came up with another clutch interception to seal a 31-23 win over Richmond Hill.
“I just didn’t want to lose and my team really needed it,” Johnson said. “I went out there and executed and played well.”
The senior running back and linebacker will get a second chance to shine on live television. WSAV’s Live Game of the Week returns to Hinesville as Johnson’s Panthers host Appling County in a region matchup.
“This is where you want to show out,” Johnson said, when asked about the upcoming game. “It’s going to have you on the edge of your seat and come down to who wants it more and who has that dog in him.”
Liberty County’s running backs are no stranger to the spotlight. Last year, Kris Coleman set school records in his 5-TD rushing performance against Bradwell Institute. Both Coleman and Johnson are smaller running backs that carry a chip on their shoulders.
“I don’t use my height and my weight as something to stop me. It pushes me to do better and to go out there and perform,” Johnson explained. “Same as Kris last year. We always had that dog mentality.”
Johnson’s skill set, motor and love for the game have earned his coach’s respect and lofty comparisons.
“We haven’t had a player like that since Richard LeCounte [now on the starting defense at Georgia],” head coach Kirk Warner said. “Only difference with Richard is he could score on three phases — special teams, offense and defense. Markel has done a great job offensively and defensively. We actually try to keep him off special teams so he won’t get gassed.”
You can catch Liberty County vs. Appling County at 7:30 p.m. on WSAV. Tune in to the highlights show on WSAV at 11 for a full recap of this game and plenty more around the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry!