Public League champs set their sights on Fels

Dami­on Samuels found the end zone 13 times this sea­son for the Pi­on­eers.

When the Samuel Fels Pan­thers meet the Frank­ford Pi­on­eers on Thanks­giv­ing Day, pro­gnost­ic­at­ors would prob­ably feel very con­fid­ent in pre­dict­ing a win­ner.

Then again, when a team still fig­ur­ing out its iden­tity takes on a Pub­lic League cham­pi­on, it doesn’t take a geni­us to com­pute the odds of an up­set.

However, Fels coach Bill Har­rigan wants his Pan­thers to ig­nore the past and fo­cus com­pletely on the task ahead. If Fels lands a stun­ning tri­umph, that would be ter­rif­ic. If it doesn’t, that’s fine, too, just as long the Pan­thers can leave everything on the field.

“We’re 3-8, so there’s a sense of dis­ap­point­ment in the kids based on their ex­pect­a­tions,” Har­rigan said. “But they’ve been in every game; they’ve played as hard as they could and they nev­er quit. They’re already ask­ing me about the off­season and look­ing for­ward to next year.”

This is the third Thanks­giv­ing Day meet­ing between the two teams. Frank­ford won 49-26 in 2011 and 49-22 in 2010. 

However, Fels ap­pears to be much bet­ter com­pet­i­tion this time. After los­ing their first five games, they are 3-3 and have won two of their last three. 

In the reg­u­lar-sea­son meet­ing with Frank­ford, the Pan­thers’ 21-0 loss was by no means em­bar­rass­ing, as Fels col­lec­ted 172 yards of total of­fense. The Pan­thers’ 145 rush­ing yards mirrored Frank­ford’s 155, but the passing dis­par­ity proved pivotal, as Frank­ford out-aired Fels 115 to 27.  

“In the past, kids wouldn’t have even made it to this game,” Har­rigan said. “They would get made fun of and hear oth­er kids tell them they stink. That’s not the case any­more. The kids are ex­cited to play, and it shows that we’re build­ing something here.”

Mul­tipur­pose standout Jam­iel Hines has col­lec­ted 532 yards and six touch­downs on 85 car­ries. Frank­ford fo­cused on stop­ping Hines earli­er this year and neut­ral­ized the seni­or to 24 yards on 12 car­ries. 

Seni­or quar­ter­back Isai­ah Brinkley is a cap­able throw­er, amass­ing 1,022 yards and sev­en touch­downs through the air via a com­ple­tion rate of 82 for 185. Brinkley’s primary tar­gets — seni­ors Jy­lil Reed­er, Nadir Hud­son and Hines — have com­bined for 55 re­cep­tions for 815 yards. 

De­fens­ively, Hines and Reed­er com­prise half of a Fels’ sec­ond­ary that has been largely re­spons­ible for the Pan­thers’ con­tinu­ing im­prove­ment. Dur­ing their five-game los­ing streak, the Pan­thers al­lowed an av­er­age of 29 points; in their next six games, that av­er­age has dwindled to 17. This in­cludes hold­ing Pub­lic League fi­nal­ists Frank­ford and George Wash­ing­ton to a re­spect­able total of 43 points.

En route to win­ning its first Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship since 2006, Frank­ford (8-2 over­all) dom­in­ated the Pub­lic League with a per­fect 7-0 re­cord. Of their eight over­all wins, the teams that held the Pi­on­eers to the few­est points — 21 — were Fels and Cent­ral.  

“We were for­tu­nate to get a win,” Frank­ford second-year coach Will Dog­gett said. “We made some mis­takes and had some kids dinged up, but they moved the ball and for­tu­nately for us they made some mis­takes, too.

 “They’re a pretty good team and they are well-coached,” Dog­gett said of Fels. “He (Har­rigan) does a good job of al­ways hav­ing his kids ready to play. They’re def­in­itely   a team we have to con­tend with, and we need to play bet­ter than we did be­fore.” 

The Pi­on­eers are led by run­ning back Dami­on Samuels. One of many out­stand­ing ju­ni­ors on the Frank­ford roster, Samuels leads the teams in touch­downs (13) and rush­ing (127 car­ries for 677 yards); ju­ni­or team­mate Quin­ton El­lis has ad­ded 399 yards on 69 at­tempts. Among Samuels’ bet­ter per­form­ances was against Fels, con­trib­ut­ing 97 yards and one touch­down on 17 car­ries.  

Seni­or quar­ter­back and Pub­lic League MVP Tim Di­Gior­gio (71 of 157 passing for 1,187 yards and nine touch­downs) was held in check by Fels, com­plet­ing only four of 10 passes for 44 yards be­fore giv­ing way to ju­ni­or Mar­quis Po­ston. An out­stand­ing out­side line­back­er who moon­lights as a back-up quar­ter­back and run­ning back, Po­ston com­pleted each of his four passes, one go­ing for a touch­down to ju­ni­or Shareef Miller. Po­ston, com­ing off a fumble re­turn for a score and an in­ter­cep­tion in the Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship, also rushed for an­oth­er score.

Di­Gior­gio’s primary tar­gets are seni­or Den­zel Turbeville (24 catches for 478 yards), ju­ni­or Wydell Compton (23 for 288, four touch­downs), and seni­or Renz Compton (10 for 239).  

Turbeville leads a de­fense that in­cludes fel­low tackle Kadar Jones, ends Miller and Shy­heim Lad­son, line­back­ers Po­ston, Jah­lil Har­ris, and Rasheed Muhammad (son of the Frank­ford of­fens­ive co­ordin­at­or of the same name), and a strong sec­ond­ary of An­thony Wright-Down­ing, Chris­ti­an San­ti­ago, Renz Compton and El­lis. 

Dur­ing their sev­en-game win­ning streak, the Pan­thers have sur­rendered only 73 points.

“We’re play­ing well, and so is Fels,” Dog­gett said. “It should make for a good game.” ••

Sports ed­it­or Ed Mor­rone con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Re­port­er John Knebels can be reached at

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