Frankford enjoys Thanksgiving feast over Fels

  • Though he left the field in an ambulance, Damion Samuels escaped serious injury. He was diagnosed with a concussion. MICHELLE ALTON / FOR THE TIMES

  • A scary moment: Frankford’s Damion Samuels was diagnosed with a concussion after a second-quarter collision with Fels’ Jylil Reeder, who watches his friend loaded into an ambulance during Frankford’s 53-18 Thanksgiving victory. JOHN KNEBELS / FOR THE TIMES

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. ••

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