Frankford High School’s football players fully understand the opportunity that awaits them.
By virtue of dispatching George Washington, 30-3, in Saturday’s Public League Division AAAA championship, the Pioneers will play Catholic League AAAA champion St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in the PIAA District 12 final.
As the anticipation of Saturday’s contest continues to build, several Pioneers repeated a familiar mantra: in order to be considered the best, you need to beat the best.
“No matter how much talking teams do, it doesn’t mean anything come game time,” said Frankford two-way junior end Shareef Miller. “Really, there’s a lot of talking before games, especially before big ones like this. All of that is forgotten at kickoff.”
And if the Pioneers should prevail?
“Well, then we can talk because we would have backed it up,” Miller said. “Until then, we know we have a tough game coming up, and the only thing we are focusing on is making this a good practice week and being prepared to play our best.”
Told about Miller’s ummary, senior running back Damion Samuels concurred.
“Other than practicing and being prepared, there is nothing more we can do,” Samuels said. “I’m sure they (the Prep) are feeling the same way.
“Both of us have played in big games so we know what is at stake. We both play in very competitive leagues, and both of us are champions. We proved that we were the best team in the Public League and they did the same thing in the Catholic League. Now we get to see who is better.”
Samuels appeared extremely excited about the challenge.
“How can you not be?” he asked.
A few yards away, senior quarterback Marquise Poston was finishing an interview. The questions concerned Frankford’s early season struggles and subsequent dominance. After losing their first three games to tough non-league foes, the Pioneers rebounded to win seven straight.
They have an opportunity to increase that streak to eight, followed by a trip to the PIAA state playoffs.
“As much as it was great tonight, I’m already looking forward to the Prep game,” Poston said. “The Prep is a great team. We know that. We think we’re a pretty great team, too.
“We’re talking city title here. This is big. Really big. It doesn’t get much bigger than this.”
The Prep is 8-2 overall and has captured seven of its last eight games. Among the Hawks’ feats is traveling to Texas and defeating Dallas Jesuit Prep in their season opener and ultimately toppling five-time defending Catholic League champion La Salle twice — once in the regular season and again in the championship.
Along with a dynamic, three-pronged rushing attack that has helped amass more than 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground and opportunistic special-teams, the Prep also sports a turnover-hungry defense that has collected 19 interceptions (two returned for touchdowns).
The reason for not mentioning the Prep’s vaunted aerial attack is because star senior quarterback Chris Martin left the Catholic League championship with a knee injury and was scheduled to receive an MRI this past Monday. Sources told the Times the injury may require surgery and will keep Martin (1,535 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 65 percent completion rate) out of the city championship. Martin’s backup, junior Jack Clements, has completed 12 of 23 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown.
Whichever quarterback is under center, Frankford senior two-way lineman Javez Baker-Hall will treat either just the same.
“I’m sure they can both play, so we’re not expecting any drop off either way,” Baker-Hall said. “They’re a very good team. They’re big, they’re disciplined, and they’re talented. I think you can say the same thing about us.”
While most pundits may consider Frankford a huge underdog, Baker-Hall said the Pioneers would be devastated if they didn’t emerge victorious. They are not showing up just to be there.
“This is what we’ve worked for,” he said. “This is the city championship. This is to get into states. We’ve been preparing for this since August. We’ve been hitting the weight room and doing all we can do.
“We’re ready to take it to the next level.”
Frankford’s numbers support such a claim. The Pioneers have rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. Defense and special teams have combined to take four trips to the end zone.
“We’re in this game because we deserve to be,” Miller said. “Same with them.”
A battle beckons. ••