When North Catholic shut its doors for good last year, it meant the end of one of the oldest traditions in the city. The annual Thanksgiving Day game with Frankford — like all else associated with the school — was reduced to a memory in the minds of the players, coaches and alumni.
Now, the Pioneers hope to plant the seeds of a new Turkey Day rivalry with Samuel Fels High School.
The Pioneers and Panthers are new league rivals, as 2011 marked the first time they went head-to-head in the Public League’s Gold Division. However, things have been a bit too one-sided thus far for this match-up to come anywhere near approaching the fierce rivalry that Frankford and North boasted.
Last November, Frankford destroyed Fels 49-22 on Thanksgiving, and considering their status in the city this season could be well on their way to another easy victory.
For the Pioneers, 2011 has been almost a fairytale season. Frankford went 7-3 overall, claiming an appearance in the Public League championship bout on Saturday.
Despite riding a seven-game winning streak into the title game, the Pioneers’ dreams of championship glory were dashed. They lost, 20-13, to George Washington.
The Thanksgiving Day game, however, will provide the Pioneers with an opportunity to end the season on a high note. Frankford will depend on senior running back Kelly Johnson — who is leading the Pioneers in rushing yards with 509 and seven touchdowns — and Savoy Martin who has caught 20 passes for 487 yards and seven TDs, to lead its’ offense.
The newfound Turkey Day tradition also allows Samuel Fels — who has dealt with the growing pains of moving to a stronger, more competitive division, posting a 3-7 overall record (2-4 in the Gold division) — a chance to even up it’s short rivalry with Frankford.
“A rivalry takes a long time to build, and this one was kind of just thrown together,” Doggett said. “I’ve been at Frankford for 10 years, and that Frankford-North game was often the biggest game of the year for us, even if we were competing in the playoffs. For that reason, it’s hard for me to make comments on something that is still so new.”
That said, Doggett did have plenty of nice things to say about what Fels coach Bill Harrigan has done with a program that is now competing in the same division as perennial powers like Frankford and Washington, as well as other talented programs such as Northeast and Germantown.
Last year, the Panthers were Public League Silver division champions, and boast a very solid player in senior wideout/defensive back Nijay Kelly, who leads Fels in receptions, receiving yards and offensive touchdowns.
“The Fels coaching staff has done a really nice job at building their program up,” Doggett said. “They’re starting to compete on the field, and they’re graduating more and more of their seniors in the classroom each year. They’ve got some talent and we certainly can’t afford to take them lightly.”
In the teams’ only meeting this season, Frankford coasted in a 38-8 victory. Junior quarterback Tim DiGiorgio was his usual stellar self, completing 9 of 20 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
For the season, DiGiorgio has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 2,053 passing yards and 26 touchdowns. It has been a season for the record books for the Frankford signal caller, and with more time to develop, Fels hopes to be in the exact same position the Pioneers are in when it comes to competing for league championships.
For now, two programs at different ends of the spectrum will have to settle for continuing to establish a new tradition to replace a rivalry that nobody will be forgetting anytime soon.
“That game (Frankford-North) often seemed more important than the city title,” Doggett said. “It takes time to develop a rivalry like that.” ••
Reporter Ed Morrone can be reached at Edward.firstname.lastname@example.org
WHERE: Frankford Memorial Stadium
WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 24, at 9:45 a.m.
LAST YEAR: Frankford won, 49-22
FRANKFORD LEADS SERIES: 1-0-0