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.”
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.” ••
Reporter John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org