Broken record: DiGiorgio departs on top

Re­cord set­ter: Tim Di­Gior­gio fell short of be­com­ing the Pub­lic League’s most pro­lif­ic pass­er ever, but he still ec­lipsed the 4,000-yard mark. KEV­IN COOK / FOR THE TIMES

The game had not even be­gun, but the buzz was already present.

Com­ing in­to the sea­son-end­ing Thanks­giv­ing Day con­test against vis­it­ing Samuel Fels, Frank­ford High School’s Tim Di­Gior­gio needed a mon­ster per­form­ance to be­come the all-time lead­ing pass­er in Pub­lic League his­tory.

Ul­ti­mately, a new re­cord es­caped him, but not be­fore Frank­ford meth­od­ic­ally de­feated Fels, 32-0. The Pub­lic League cham­pi­on Pi­on­eers fin­ished the sea­son 9-3 over­all, with a per­fect 8-0 mark against league foes.

“I really wasn’t try­ing to set any­thing,” Di­Gior­gio said. “It was a situ­ation that if it happened, it happened, and if it didn’t, it didn’t.”

Di­Gior­gio entered his ca­reer fi­nale need­ing 206 yards to reach 4,000 for his ca­reer and 376 to equal the ca­reer yard­age mark of 4,170 es­tab­lished by 2009 North­east High gradu­ate Ma­lik Stokes. 

The first mile­stone seemed in­ev­it­able as Frank­ford had little trouble mov­ing the ball down­field des­pite ag­gress­ive pres­sure from Fels’ de­fens­ive line and line­back­ers. Frank­ford’s re­ceiv­ers con­sist­ently over­matched Fels’ sec­ond­ary, par­tic­u­larly in the middle of the field.

“We did a good job of get­ting open,” said Frank­ford seni­or re­ceiv­er Renz “Rodeo” Compton. “Tim made some great passes and we got a lot of yards after the catch.”

Compton said he and his team­mates were aware of Di­Gior­gio’s yard­age pur­suits, but did not al­low the hoopla to in­flu­ence their ap­proach.

“Tim is a great quar­ter­back and it’s great to have someone like that throw you the ball,” said Compton, who has snared 11 touch­downs over the past two sea­sons. “We know that when we run our routes, Tim isn’t go­ing to make many mis­takes.

“But the goal was to play hard and win the game, and that is what the most im­port­ant thing is.”

Di­Gior­gio agreed.

De­flect­ing ques­tions about his per­son­al stat­ist­ics, Di­Gior­gio em­phas­ized how his big num­bers “would nev­er be pos­sible” without “great” pro­tec­tion from his of­fens­ive line and his re­ceiv­ers’ abil­ity to haul in his throws. 

Asked if he was frus­trated by the nu­mer­ous drops on Thanks­giv­ing, Di­Gior­gio ac­know­ledged that he was, but not be­cause of his per­son­al stat­ist­ics.

“Any­time you leave a play on the field, it can be an­noy­ing be­cause you’re try­ing to score touch­downs,” he said. “But some­times a quar­ter­back makes a bad throw and the re­ceiv­er still comes up with the catch, so those things work both ways.”

Aided by a fourth-and-12-yard con­ver­sion on a 15-yard re­cep­tion by ju­ni­or Juwan Man­ning, Frank­ford seized a 6-0 lead on a 22-yard scamper by ju­ni­or Quin­ton El­lis mid­way through the first quarter. 

The Pi­on­eers would add to their lead in the second quarter. Di­Gior­gio tossed a sev­en-yard touch­down pass to Compton (4 catches, 58 yards) and ad­ded a two-point con­ver­sion pass to ju­ni­or Ren­ee Her­rera to make it 14-0.

Fol­low­ing an on­side kick that was re­covered by ju­ni­or Tah­keem Ab­del, Di­Gior­gio fired a per­fectly ex­ecuted 50-yard scor­ing heave to Her­rera (3 catches, 71 yards), who shook off close cov­er­age by Fels de­fens­ive back Dex­ter Smith. 

Then came a crazy epis­ode that seemed to break Fels’ spir­it.

On the last play be­fore half­time, seni­or quar­ter­back Isai­ah Brinkley threw a long pass that was in­ter­cep­ted by Compton — one of three Frank­ford picks — in­side the five-yard line. Eight yards later Compton was stopped, but not be­fore a suc­cess­ful lat­er­al pass to ju­ni­or Ry­shawn Lad­son, who then gal­loped 26 yards be­fore fum­bling while be­ing tackled.

Un­daun­ted, El­lis re­covered at the 39 and rambled 61 yards for a sur­real touch­down that in­creased Frank­ford’s lead to 26

With the vic­tory vir­tu­ally guar­an­teed, the only drama re­main­ing was Di­Gior­gio’s num­bers. With 156 yards through the first two quar­ters, it was con­ceiv­able that he could reach 376.

That said, Frank­ford coach Will Dog­gett wanted to main­tain per­spect­ive.

“We were aware of what was go­ing on,” he said. “We moved the ball well by both run­ning and throw­ing and we didn’t want to get away from that bal­ance.

“Fels played hard and made some plays. We had to work for everything we got.”

With two minutes re­main­ing in the third quarter, Di­Gior­gio flung a 31-yard laser to Compton and sur­passed the 4,000-yard mark for his bril­liant ca­reer. Dur­ing the same drive, he would later find Man­ning for a six-yard touch­down strike — his third of the game and 44th of his ca­reer — and fin­ish the game 19 for 31 for 267 yards for a ca­reer total of 4,061.

Not too shabby for a two-year stretch.

“It’s def­in­itely a great feel­ing to throw for that many yards and it means a lot to me be­cause I shared it with my team­mates,” said Di­Gior­gio, who is hop­ing to land a Di­vi­sion I foot­ball schol­ar­ship. “Like I said, it’s not all about me. 

“The best part of the sea­son was win­ning the Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship and go­ing un­defeated in the league. People will think about that more than my ca­reer yard­age.”

Dog­gett agreed. The second-year coach, who had missed the Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship to be with his ail­ing moth­er in Louisi­ana be­fore she passed away,  be­came a tad emo­tion­al when asked what was most mem­or­able about this sea­son.

“This group of people — the play­ers and the coaches — are second to none,” Dog­gett said. “So many won­der­ful memor­ies. I can’t think of just one. Just so many.” ••

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