If Northeast High School ever needs a spokesperson, it should look no further than Missiah Mason.
Given his druthers, the senior linebacker obviously would rather have been talking about a victory than a defeat in Saturday afternoon’s Public League Gold Division semifinal at Northeast’s Charles Martin Stadium. However, Frankford made such reverie impossible, thanks to a not-as-dominant-as-it-looked 35-15 victory.
So while the Pioneers of Frankford will take on defending champion George Washington for the Pub title (4 p.m. Saturday at Northeast High), Northeast will have to wait for Thanksgiving to play Central in its season finale.
Consider Mason among the most bummed.
“Frankford has a good football team, a lot of talent,” said Mason, a former running back who has started at linebacker since his junior year and played every defensive snap in the semifinal loss. “I just think we left a lot of plays on the field. We didn’t do enough, but I think we had the talent to do more.”
Told of Mason’s assessment, several Frankford players disagreed. Then again, what would one expect?
In their defense, the Pioneers (7-2) proved to be the better team for the second time this season. After having beaten the Vikings (5-5) during the regular season, 27-6, Frankford started slowly in the re-match and trailed 7-0 after senior Devon Dillard snagged an interception and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown midway through the first quarter.
Enjoying a career-best performance, junior Quinton Ellis (172 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries) came to Frankford’s rescue by contributing two touchdowns and a two-point conversion late in the second quarter, but Northeast hung tough trailing by only 15-7 entering the fourth quarter.
Out of nowhere, a perfectly executed 42-yard touchdown run by Ellis preceded touchdown passes from quarterback Tim DiGiorgio (6 for 12, 116 yards) to seniors Renz Compton and Denzel Turbeville, and what appeared to be a possible upset had turned into a pseudo-rout.
“A lot of people on our team gave it their all, but it didn’t go our way,” Mason said. “Our run defense didn’t stop them enough and our offense didn’t generate enough yards.”
That said, Mason lauded his teammates because they didn’t give up.
“That’s the Northeast way, to never stop playing hard,” he said. “That’s what our coaches said (in the post-game meeting). We fought to the end of the game.”
Mason is the oldest of seven siblings and is very close to his maternal grandmother, Gwendolyn Burnett, who raised him since he was 2 years old.
Describing himself as an “average” student with an aptitude for mathematics, Mason is not sure where he will attend college but he plans to go.
“She has taught me to be a strong person,” Mason said. “She has stressed that education is important.”
Soft-spoken by nature, Mason said he has “no problems” being vocal when he needs to be.
“I don’t say too much during games, but I do talk during practice,” Mason said. “I talk mostly to the younger kids. I try and make sure they know what is going on and how to handle things. I want them to keep working hard so they can be better than me.”
Having played — and lost to — both Frankford and George Washington, Mason was asked to predict who would win the Public League championship.
After careful analysis, Mason said he is leaning toward Washington, the defending champs. And as for the annual Northeast-Central clash on Thanksgiving Day?
“Northeast,” he said with a grin. “Of course.” ••
Reporter John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org