Like his senior teammates, Rene Herrera was hoping to finish his career with a state championship.
A Public League title and a Thanksgiving Day rout will have to do.
On a freezing cold Thursday morning, Herrera and company led Frankford to a 53-18 romp over visiting Samuel Fels, thus increasing its Turkey Day edge to 4-0 in the all-time series. It was the kind of game in which the victors didn’t feel like leaving the field, while their foes couldn’t wait to get home to eat dinner.
Indeed, as the Pioneer upperclassmen celebrated the win by taking turns pushing tackle sleds as far as they could, the Panthers (4-8) trudged off the field looking worse for wear. In Fels’ defense, Frankford (8-4) had approached this season finale on a mission.
“The Prep game still bothers us,” said Herrera, referring to the 10-7 District 12 city championship loss to Catholic League representative St. Joseph’s Prep two weeks earlier. “We couldn’t wait to play this game and get rid of the bad taste.”
Herrera, with 84 total yards and two touchdowns on only six touches, was one of numerous Pioneers who contributed mightily. From the moment that Frankford’s Byshawn Jenkins successfully recovered a game-opening, onside kick at the Fels’ 37-yard line, the feeling was clear: this one would not be pretty.
Within 8:01 of the first quarter, Frankford had run 10 plays and scored three touchdowns via a 23-yard pass from quarterback Marquise Poston to Alex Candelario, a 23-yard run by Quinton Ellis (10 carries for 96 yards), and a 34-yard connection from Poston to Herrera.
The Pioneers would add 20 more points in the second quarter behind a 4-yard run by Candelario, Poston’s third TD pass (a 10-yard laser caught with one hand by Wydell Compton) and a 9-yard run by Jarvis Cooper. Consecutive touchdowns in the third quarter included an 18-yard run by Herrera and a 25-yard jaunt by Cooper. It was enough to induce a game-long running clock because Frankford’s lead had ballooned to 35 points … at the 3:08 mark of the third quarter.
“I’m not gonna lie, we played fantastic,” Herrera said. “Every player did something good. That’s the best kind of game. It leaves everyone in a great mood.”
To his credit, Fels senior star Jylil Reeder lauded Frankford for its top-to-bottom effort.
“What else can you say? They came out and made plays all game long,” said Reeder, who singlehandedly kept the score mildly respectable by running 10 yards for a touchdown, throwing a 50-yard scoring strike to junior Kordell Robinson and catching a shovel pass from backup QB Monythai Lay and racing 65 yards for a touchdown on the game’s final play from scrimmage. “Sometimes you have to tip your hat to the other team.”
Reeder, whose senior campaign ended with 1,076 receiving yards and 172 total points (56 more than the composite production of the rest of the team), was involved in a frightening play involving Frankford star Damion Samuels.
With 11:16 remaining in the second quarter, a fumble by Fels was recovered by Frankford, and during the play, Reeder and Samuels collided in violent fashion. After the players emerged from the scrum, Samuels remained on the ground. For the next 20 minutes, trainers, coaches and players attended to Samuels before an ambulance sped him away to Temple University Hospital.
Among those who walked over to extend Samuels best wishes was Reeder.
“He’s a friend of mine,” Reeder said. “You hate seeing anybody get hurt. That was definitely something to worry about. It didn’t look good.”
Samuels was later diagnosed with a concussion, and although that is a serious injury in its own right, it paled in comparison to what could have been.
“It was a scary moment for me, but I’m feeling better,” Samuels said in a text message to the Times. “I get medicine for my headaches. I remember the game, but not the hit.”
Samuels said that Reeder had told him “it was the hardest hit that he ever took.” Samuels was also “real proud of him” after being told about Reeder’s heroics.
“We’ve been good friends ever since we were in ninth grade,” Samuels said. “He’s a great player, and I’m glad he’s getting the attention that he deserves.”
Among those who did their best to contain Reeder was Frankford defensive lineman Javez Baker-Hall. Blitzing all game long, Baker-Hall and teammate Shareef Miller put constant pressure on Fels’ passing game, resulting in numerous wayward throws and a pair of interceptions — one each by Poston and Qahire Moore.
“We decided that we were gonna leave everything on the field, and that’s what we did,” Baker-Hall said. “We didn’t give them much of a chance to do anything. Jylil made some great plays like he always does, but other than that, I thought we did a decent job.”
That’s putting it mildly. ••