Grand finale

After a dis­ap­point­ing fall in the Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship, Frank­ford made sure its sea­son ended on a high note.

On the play fol­low­ing the Brown re­cep­tion and tackle, Frank­ford (Sr) RB, Kelly John­son scored Frank­ford’s first TD of the day on a burst up the middle while wrapped in the arms of Fels DL Dez White.

As the clock struck triple zer­os on Thanks­giv­ing Day at Frank­ford High School, the Pi­on­eers felt as if they had just lived through the fi­nal sat­is­fy­ing act of a movie script that fea­tured more twists and turns than an M. Night Shyamalan film. 

Frank­ford had opened the 2011 sea­son with a pair of 27-26 non-league losses; then the Pi­on­eers reeled off sev­en straight wins, with the fi­nal two be­ing a 21-20 nail-biter over rival Wash­ing­ton to win the Pub­lic League reg­u­lar-sea­son title, and then a troun­cing of Cent­ral in the first round of the play­offs. 

Then, on Nov. 11, in a re­match against Wash­ing­ton for the Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship, seni­or Mike Brown picked the worst pos­sible time for a fumble, cough­ing the ball up on the Eagles’ 1-yard-line late in the second half in a game Frank­ford would end up los­ing by one touch­down. So it would just make sense that Brown would get to en­joy some sweet vin­dic­a­tion in a big way on Thanks­giv­ing, right?


Brown ran wild over Samuel Fels on Tur­key Day, post­ing five touch­downs in a 49-26 romp. Ac­tu­ally, Frank­ford had trailed as late as the second quarter. With his team down 14-13, Brown pos­ted three con­sec­ut­ive third-quarter touch­downs — a 25-yard run and touch­down catches of 44 and 18 yards on passes from ju­ni­or quar­ter­back Tim Di­Gior­gio. 

Fels cut the de­fi­cit to 35-20 shortly after, only to see Brown re­turn the en­su­ing kick­off 85 yards for a score. Just for good meas­ure, Brown ad­ded his third touch­down catch of the game in the third quarter, a 33-yard heave from Di­Gior­gio, to en­sure that the Pi­on­eers would at least end their sea­son on a pos­it­ive note after los­ing to un­der­dog Wash­ing­ton in the title game.

“Man … that kid fumbles on the one (yard line) a few weeks be­fore and is the goat,” said a spec­tat­or on the Frank­ford side­line. “Today he scores five touch­downs. You really can’t write this stuff.”

Luck­ily for Frank­ford, they had an ally on their side in who­ever penned the com­ple­tion of the script that was their sea­son. Led by Di­Gior­gio’s golden left arm, 2011 quickly be­came Frank­ford’s year, which made it so dif­fi­cult for the Pi­on­eers to watch Wash­ing­ton cel­eb­rate a title they thought they had earned.

“From the be­gin­ning my coaches told me, as well as the rest of the seni­ors, that this was your last game ever in a Frank­ford uni­form,” Brown said fol­low­ing the vic­tory. “Me per­son­ally, I just wanted to go out there and give 110 per­cent and leave it all out there on the field. I wasn’t ex­pect­ing to score five touch­downs, but hey… I’ll take it.”

Brown will find no qualms from his coaches and team­mates, who came out flat early on against a Fels team that won just four games this sea­son. The Pan­thers of­ten looked over­matched in their first sea­son as a mem­ber of the Pub­lic League Class AAAA Gold Di­vi­sion, al­though they briefly seemed poised for an up­set on Thanks­giv­ing.

After a short touch­down run and con­ver­sion put Fels up 8-7 late in the first quarter, ju­ni­or de­fens­ive back Jam­iel Hines picked off an er­rant Di­Gior­gio throw and re­turned it 20 yards for a score. Just like that, the Pan­thers led mighty Frank­ford 14-7 after one quarter that had them think­ing up­set early. But then seni­or tight end Aaron Al­lis­on hauled in a 3-yard score from Di­Gior­gio to cut the de­fi­cit to one. 

From that point on, the game be­came the Mike Brown show, one that the Frank­ford play­ers, coaches and alumni in at­tend­ance found as the per­fect ap­pet­izer be­fore their Thanks­giv­ing feasts.

And al­though a Thanks­giv­ing game against a team in trans­ition didn’t carry nearly as much weight as the title game versus Wash­ing­ton, Brown didn’t waste his shot at re­demp­tion.

“It means a lot to me be­cause these guys are my fam­ily and they stuck with me,” he said. “Dur­ing the game against Wash­ing­ton, that fumble on the goal line pretty much blew our chances of win­ning the title. I just wanted to come out today and show them I was still a part of the team. I wanted to give them my best. I owed that to these guys.”

It’s safe to say that all is for­giv­en between Brown and the rest of his team. Dur­ing his four-touch­down, video­game-esque per­form­ance in the third quarter, he had coaches mar­veling on the side­line.

“Hey… we’ve got to make sure Mike grabs an in­ter­cep­tion and re­turns it for a touch­down,” de­fens­ive co­ordin­at­or Juan Namnun joked. “I’ve got to get in on this party.”

And though Brown, who also plays de­fens­ive back, didn’t se­cure a pick-six, his five-touch­down out­burst was more than enough to end Frank­ford’s sea­son on a pos­it­ive note. 

Over­all, the Pi­on­eers fin­ished with eight wins to just three losses; as for Brown, he fin­ished with 10 total touch­downs — five in the first 10 games, and five in the span of about 20 minutes on Thanks­giv­ing. He ended up as Frank­ford’s second-lead­ing rush­er on the sea­son, and also caught 16 passes for 229 yards. 

(His Thanks­giv­ing stats ended up look­ing like this: four catches for 105 yards and three touch­downs, two rushes for 29 yards and a touch­down, as well as a long kick­off re­turn for a score.)

Though Brown and sev­er­al oth­er key mem­bers of the Frank­ford team will be lost to gradu­ation — Al­lis­on, Mar­quan Scott, Kelly John­son, to name a few — 2012 cer­tainly ap­pears bright enough to en­sure that the Pi­on­eers will have their own shot at re­demp­tion when bat­tling to­ward the Pub­lic League title game. 

Di­Gior­gio will be back for his seni­or sea­son, and if his ju­ni­or year num­bers are any in­dic­a­tion (2,357 passing yards, 30 touch­downs), Frank­ford already can count on a spe­cial run. Oth­er key mem­bers such as ju­ni­or re­ceiv­er/de­fens­ive back Renz Compton and two-way line­man Kadar Jones also will re­turn.

With the team in Di­Gior­gio’s hands, Brown ex­pects big things.

“Tim is a won­der­ful kid,” he said. “He gets straight A’s, jokes a lot … there’s just not enough you can say about him. He’s go­ing to carry this team to its fullest.”

As for Brown him­self, he wanted just a few ex­tra mo­ments to stand on the empty­ing field in his Frank­ford uni­form to soak up what he had just ac­com­plished.

“I stuck through the downs of that Wash­ing­ton game, and my broth­ers had my back,” Brown said. “Words can’t ex­plain how I feel right now … it’s won­der­ful. Def­in­itely the best feel­ing on a foot­ball field, and to be hon­est with you, I needed it to end this way. Thank­fully, the world is all about second chances, and I got mine today.”

For Frank­ford and Mike Brown, you can’t write a bet­ter end­ing than that. ••

Re­port­er Ed Mor­rone can be reached at Ed­ward.mor­

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