Born and raised in the Frankford section of Philadelphia, Tim DiGiorgio started playing football at the age of 5 for the Oxford Circle Raiders. But until August 2011, nobody really knew who he was; DiGiorgio quickly changed all that.
DiGiorgio got somewhat of a late start as a varsity athlete, as he played youth football for the Frankford Chargers in ninth and tenth grades, patiently waiting to get his shot at quarterback for the varsity-level Pioneers while honing his skills.
The wait paid off.
As a junior, DiGiorgio burst onto the scene with 2,357 passing yards and 30 touchdowns, shattering Public League passing records. Currently a senior and unquestionably the best quarterback in the Public League, in just his 15th career game, DiGiorgio became only the third Public League quarterback to eclipse 3,000 career-passing yards on Sept. 21.
Nevertheless, after a 20-13 loss to the rival George Washington Eagles in last year’s Public League Championship game, DiGiorgio had a bitter taste in his mouth going into Frankford’s regular season matchup against Washington this season, played last Friday afternoon at Frankford Stadium.
Not even the sprained knee that kept him out of Frankford’s previous game against Germantown could keep DiGiorgio from suiting up in this one.
“My knee wasn’t 100 percent, and there was doubt I would play,” DiGiorgio said. “My dad and a few of my coaches thought I should sit for another week, but I wanted to play.”
The rivalry between Washington and Frankford goes back generations across a wide range of sports, but none carries more weight than football. No player understands and appreciates the history of this Public League heavyweight clash more than DiGiorgio.
“If you play for Frankford, you don’t like Washington, and vice versa,” DiGiorgio said after finishing Frankford’s 25-14 win with 100 passing yards and no aerial touchdowns, the latter a first for him as the starting QB. “I’m not sure how it started, but I remember going to Frankford-Washington games before I even got to high school and the atmosphere was so crazy and competitive between the two teams.”
Friday was the teams’ first head-to-head matchup of the 2012 season, and the intensity was powerful for a regular season contest. Alumni and fans from both schools filed into the stands in anticipation of one of the most exciting games, one that is circled on both schedules before the season starts.
The game didn’t disappoint, especially for DiGiorgio and the Frankford loyalists as the matchup remained within 13 points or less throughout, even if the game did not seem as close as the score sometimes indicated.
While Washington switched from senior quarterback Dave Gavrilov (4-for-8, 42 yards, two interceptions) to senior Al Augustine (4-for-7, 42 yards) at halftime, Frankford had the luxury of relying on their star quarterback to calmly and coolly lead them to victory.
With the tender knee an issue, the Frankford coaching staff understandably decided to ease DiGiorgio into the game. As a result, Frankford relied heavily on junior all-purpose back Damion Samuels, who on Friday was the most explosive player on the field. Samuels finished the game with 76 rushing yards, 27 receiving yards, two rushing touchdowns, a 94-yard kick-return touchdown to start the second half and an interception on defense. Although DiGiorgio usually carries the load for the Frankford offense, it never hurts to have a little help from your friends.
“He’s the best running back in the city,” DiGiorgio said of Samuels, who has 11 touchdowns in Frankford’s six games. “He’s a playmaker. I don’t think I’d rather have any other running back.”
Eventually, toward the end of the first half, Frankford began throwing the ball more often. However, things weren’t exactly going DiGiorgio’s way. After some unruly Pioneer drops and superb defensive plays by Washington (specifically from senior cornerback Rashaan Williams, who helped hold Frankford leading receiver Denzel Turbeville without a catch), Frankford switched back to a ground attack. DiGiorgio, who had his worst statistical game in a winning performance, never lost focus and remained upbeat. He managed the game brilliantly, kept his team in check, and most important, did not commit any turnovers.
“I just keep in mind that the previous play is over with,” DiGiorgio said, regarding incomplete and dropped passes. “I’ve got to keep the team up when things aren’t going our way.”
And he did just that. Frankford never lost its composure or the lead, even as Washington attempted to slice into the deficit on more than one occasion.
“I prefer to just run a balanced offense to keep the defense on their heels,” DiGiorgio said. “I think that’s the best chance we have at winning games.”
Added Frankford assistant coach Rasheed Muhammad: “We wanted to claim first place to show we’re the best team in the Public League. Not knowing if Tim was going to play or not, we showed today how balanced we are.”
Leading by just five points at the time, DiGiorgio capped a crucial seven-play, 67-yard Frankford drive late in the third quarter by scoring on a 3-yard rushing touchdown to put the Pioneers up 25-14 for good.
When evaluating his team’s performance, DiGiorgio understood that Samuels and the running game proved to be the difference.
“We played good and disciplined,” said DiGiorgio. “Offensively, we ran it down their throats, and the defense played well throughout the entire game.”
Frankford, now 3-0 in the Public League AAAA Gold Division and 4-2 overall, has seen their top player throw for 860 yards and five touchdowns in five starts this season. Though he may not equal last year’s unprecedented numbers, DiGiorgio has every reason to be optimistic about the future of Frankford’s season.
“We definitely want to win the [Public League] championship this year and compete for the city title.”
And as for the future of his football career, DiGiorgio isn’t sure yet, but considering that he’s focused on enjoying what’s left of his high school days, he’s OK with that.
“I’m not sure [about] what college I’ll be attending, but I still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “I would love to go to a Division I program, but if that doesn’t work out, I would be more than happy to excel at a Division I-AA or Divison II school.” ••