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.” ••