Twice as nice

  • Nothing could stop Frankford in Saturday’s 30-3 Public League championship win. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

  • How’s the water?: Frankford head coach Will Doggett gets an ice-cold water cooler bath despite Saturday evening’s frigid temperatures. Doggett, who missed last year’s championship while attending his mother’s funeral in Louisiana, got to celebrate the win on the field with his team this time around. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

  • Champs repeat: Tim DiGiorgio (right) threw for over 4,000 yards as Frankford’s quarterback before graduating earlier this year. He passed the baton to Marquise Poston, who helped the Pioneers rebound from an 0-3 start to capture a second consecutive Public League title. Frankford will play St. Joe’s Prep for the city title. BILL ACUFF / FOR THE TIMES

After two re­cord-break­ing sea­sons as Frank­ford’s quar­ter­back, Tim Di­Gior­gio par­layed his suc­cess un­der cen­ter for the Pi­on­eers in­to a spot on the Temple Uni­versity foot­ball team. With the Owls on a bye week, it would have been easy for him to kick back on his couch, safely sheltered from the fri­gid early-Novem­ber tem­per­at­ures.

But then there he was on the field be­fore the biggest game of Frank­ford’s sea­son, Sat­urday even­ing’s Pub­lic League AAAA cham­pi­on­ship at North­east’s Charlie Mar­tin Sta­di­um against long­time rival George Wash­ing­ton. Dressed in a Temple winter poof-ball hat and sweat­pants, Di­Gior­gio was an un­of­fi­cial coach for the Pi­on­eers, help­ing warm up his former team­mates, namely his suc­cessor at quar­ter­back, seni­or Mar­quise Po­ston.

Di­Gior­gio had quar­ter­backed Frank­ford in two Pub­lic League title games against the Eagles, first a loss in 2011, fol­lowed by a 30-16 vin­dic­at­or as a seni­or last sea­son. His pres­ence served as a calm­ing in­flu­ence for his team­mates, es­pe­cially Po­ston, a de­fens­ive stal­wart thrust in­to the seem­ingly im­possible po­s­i­tion of filling Di­Gior­gio’s shoes at QB.

After help­ing Frank­ford dis­mantle the Eagles on Sat­urday for the second time this sea­son, 30-3 (the Pi­on­eers scored 22 un­answered fourth-quarter points to run Wash­ing­ton out of the build­ing), it’s safe to say Po­ston has stepped out of Di­Gior­gio’s shad­ow and formed his own iden­tity.

“Words can’t even ex­plain it, how proud I am of him,” Di­Gior­gio said fol­low­ing the game. “He’s just really shown up. I def­in­itely knew he was go­ing to be the lead­er on de­fense that he was last year and bring that over on of­fense. I knew he was go­ing to be able to lead the team, make plays and make sure everything ran smoothly.

“But I’m not sure I ex­pec­ted him to do this. It’s so im­press­ive that it’s just blown my mind. I am so proud of him.”

While nobody will ever com­pare the quar­ter­back styles of Di­Gior­gio and Po­ston, it’s hard to ar­gue the fact that both got the res­ults Frank­ford had hoped for. Di­Gior­gio is Nick Foles, a pure pock­et pass­er who threw for 4,061 yards and 44 touch­downs in just two varsity sea­sons, while Po­ston is more like Mi­chael Vick, someone who is just as likely to burn you with his legs as he is with his left arm (both Po­ston and Di­Gior­gio are south­paws).

Po­ston filled in for Di­Gior­gio at points last year when the star QB was nurs­ing a knee in­jury, com­plet­ing 10 of his 15 pass at­tempts for 146 yards and two TDs. In 2013, Po­ston went 45-for-127 for 637 yards and sev­en passing scores, while rush­ing 80 times for 306 yards and six more touch­downs on the ground. In the cham­pi­on­ship game, Po­ston was his nor­mal bal­anced self, com­plet­ing 6 of 12 passes for 47 yards, rush­ing sev­en times for 44 yards, grabbing a fourth-quarter in­ter­cep­tion on de­fense and keep­ing his mis­takes to a min­im­um. When asked what he learned most from Di­Gior­gio’s tu­tel­age, Po­ston kept it simple.

“Poise, ba­sic­ally,” he said. “Poise in the pock­et, poise at the quar­ter­back po­s­i­tion and poise as a lead­er. His lead­er­ship abil­it­ies … he knows how to in­flu­ence the team in the huddle and how to en­cour­age every­body to do their best. Him hav­ing my back, that did noth­ing but make me bet­ter every day of the week. Any­time we have a game, he’s there help­ing me out. It’s noth­ing but love, and he’s al­ways been there for me.”

While Po­ston was kept out of the end zone in this one, he more than played his part on both sides of the ball. After a light­ning-quick first quarter that pro­duced zer­oes on both sides of the score­board, Frank­ford seni­or run­ning back Quin­ton El­lis (12 car­ries, 42 yards) opened up the scor­ing six seconds in­to the second frame with a 5-yard TD run. Wash­ing­ton kick­er Chris Schle­gel’s 24-yard field goal with 7:21 to go made the score 8-3 at half­time.

It stayed there un­til late in the third quarter, where the oth­er half of the Pi­on­eers’ two-headed mon­ster at run­ning back, seni­or Dami­on Samuels, put this one out of reach. First was a 5-yard score with 45 seconds re­main­ing in the third that made it 16-3, then after a Wash­ing­ton punt early in the fourth, Samuels (10 car­ries, 111 yards, 2 TD’s) roke free for a 68-yard score on the drive’s first play to in­crease the lead to 23-3 with 10 minutes re­main­ing.

For all in­tents and pur­poses, game over. Des­pite a spir­ited, in­tense battle through three quar­ters, this night em­phat­ic­ally be­longed to Frank­ford, just as it had a year ago when Di­Gior­gio was able to bring the coveted title back to the foot­ball-crazed school.

“We lost a few key seni­or lead­ers,” Di­Gior­gio said of last year’s title team. “But we had guys like Mar­quise, Quin­ton, Dami­on, (line­man) Car­los Saldana … just a great group of guys who I knew were ready to step up and have a great team this sea­son.”

If you listen to any­one on the Frank­ford side­line, they will tell you a large chunk of Frank­ford’s suc­cess this sea­son is owed to Po­ston. While his stats may not be as gaudy as Di­Gior­gio’s, he is a nat­ur­al-born lead­er. The Pi­on­eers needed that in 2013, es­pe­cially after drop­ping their first three games of the sea­son, all blo­wout de­cisions to for­mid­able non-league op­pon­ents.

Head­ing in­to the Pub­lic League slate at 0-3, Frank­ford needed an iden­tity, and its gen­er­al on both sides of the ball made sure the ship didn’t sink. The Pi­on­eers haven’t lost since, rip­ping off sev­en straight wins.

“I’m sat­is­fied, but at the same time I want to get that city title,” Po­ston said, re­fer­ring to this week­end’s AAAA match­up with Cath­ol­ic League cham­pi­on St. Joseph’s Prep (Sat­urday, 4 p.m., North­east High School). “So I guess you could say I’m sat­is­fied, but at the same time I’m not. My sea­son’s not over just yet. The team’s sea­son is not over. We still have work to do.”

Di­Gior­gio and com­pany fell to La Salle, 37-20, in last year’s city title con­test, a game the Cath­ol­ic League usu­ally dom­in­ates. Now, it’s Po­ston’s turn to try to do what last year’s lead­er un­der cen­ter could not. But how?

“The num­ber one thing is we just have to work hard in prac­tice every day this week,” Po­ston said.

Di­Gior­gio, still will­ing to dis­pense wis­dom des­pite mov­ing on to a Di­vi­sion I col­lege pro­gram, said the key to beat­ing the Prep will be Po­ston and the Pi­on­eers not overthink­ing things. Just play foot­ball, he said.

“They just have to play four quar­ters, full throttle,” he said. “No stop­ping, no think­ing about who St. Joe’s Prep is, just go out there and play against your op­pon­ent as hard as you can.”

No mat­ter how the city title game turns out, Di­Gior­gio was just happy to be a part of this game, even if it was in the role of side­line cheer­lead­er.

“I look at all these guys as my young­er broth­ers,” he said. “It’s a close-knit fam­ily here at Frank­ford. I live in the neigh­bor­hood, so I’m still al­ways try­ing to see what they’re do­ing when I can. I just love all these guys so much. They mean so much to me.” ••

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