Northeast Times

Frankford dominates, ready for GW title rematch

Block this: Frank­ford seni­or cap­tain Car­los Saldana (in red, block­ing No. 33 in white) said the Pi­on­eers can’t wait to de­fend their Pub­lic League title against George Wash­ing­ton this Sat­urday. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

A rout.

While the fi­nal score of Frank­ford’s 31-14 vic­tory over South­ern in Sat­urday night’s Pub­lic League AAAA semi­final at Charles Mar­tin Sta­di­um might not seem overly one-sided, it was in truth a de­moli­tion pro­ject turned ugly.

In fact, the num­bers be­lie the Pi­on­eers’ dom­in­ance. Frank­ford had only 31 more yards from scrim­mage, and Quin­ton El­lis (9 car­ries for 91 yards, in­clud­ing a 67-yard scor­ing run) was the only par­tic­u­larly im­press­ive in­di­vidu­al stat­ist­ic — though a nifty, 78-yard touch­down in­ter­cep­tion re­turn by seni­or Chris­ti­an San­ti­ago in the third quarter was quite scin­til­lat­ing.

Still, this one was nev­er in doubt, thus set­ting up a Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship battle this Sat­urday between Frank­ford and George Wash­ing­ton (4 p.m., at North­east High). This will be the third straight sea­son in which the two jug­ger­nauts clash for Pub­lic League su­prem­acy. Frank­ford won last year, while Wash­ing­ton won the pre­vi­ous sea­son.

This is pre­cisely what the Pi­on­eers had hoped for, even after they de­feated GW, 33-14, earli­er this fall.

“They talk a lot,” said Frank­ford seni­or guard and co-cap­tain Car­los Saldana. “There’s a lot of stuff to point to, but let’s just say that we’ve heard things that we’re not happy about.”

In high school ath­let­ics, it’s cer­tainly not un­usu­al for teen­agers to say a little more than what coaches would prefer them to, es­pe­cially when com­bin­ing this fe­ver­ish rivalry with the cur­rent so­cial me­dia age. So per­haps it’s best to end the po­ten­tial drama right about there.

Be­cause the more in­triguing mat­ter is that the two best teams in the Pub­lic League are once again vy­ing for brag­ging rights. While Wash­ing­ton needed a late touch­down and de­fens­ive hero­ics to deny North­east a ma­jor up­set bid in the oth­er PL semi­final, Frank­ford was rarely chal­lenged against South­ern.

Frank­ford is pre­par­ing for a much stiffer test in the fi­nal.

“They’re a good team,” said standout seni­or line­man Kadar Jones, who made life miser­able for South­ern’s would-be block­ers. “Two good teams play­ing for the cham­pi­on­ship. That’s ex­actly what you want.”

Saldana agreed.

“I don’t like George Wash­ing­ton, but I re­spect their team,” he said. “That’s the bot­tom line. I think they would say the same thing about us.”

While say­ing he would be “shocked” if any of his team­mates were “any­thing less than 100 per­cent ready to give their all,” Saldana will not hes­it­ate to bark at his peers should he see any­thing out of the or­din­ary.

That’s what his coach­ing staff ex­pects from him and the oth­er team cap­tains — a will­ing­ness to speak up on their be­half out in the trenches.

For Saldana, the grit­ti­ness of foot­ball ap­pealed to him as soon as he began play­ing while wear­ing equip­ment dur­ing last year’s pre­season scrim­mages. It was the first time he had played or­gan­ized foot­ball. He quickly ab­sorbed tech­nique and ter­min­o­logy to be­come a gif­ted of­fens­ive line­man.

Claim­ing he is totally un­afraid of any op­pon­ent re­gard­less of size, Saldana cited his older broth­er, Ra­fael Dome­nech, as the reas­on for his nev­er-end­ing con­fid­ence.

“When I was little we would wrestle and he, of course, would al­ways win,” Saldana said. “It would get on my nerves back then and I’d be frus­trated, but look­ing back, he taught me to not ever back down from any­one or any­thing no mat­ter how great the odds are against me.”

Dome­nech, a 2007 Fels gradu­ate and foot­ball play­er, wore No. 58, which is why Saldana does the same.

“He’s been a great in­flu­ence on me,” Saldana said. “He comes to every one of my games — dur­ing the sea­son and even in scrim­mages.”

A knee sprain after last year’s cham­pi­on­ship landed Saldana on a phys­ic­al ther­ap­ist’s table. He im­me­di­ately felt com­fort­able in that en­vir­on­ment. Now, Saldana hopes to ma­jor in kin­esi­ology and play foot­ball in col­lege.

“I liked be­ing there,” he said. “I don’t know why. It was something about how they went about things. They were help­ing me and oth­er people, and since I en­joy help­ing people, too, that seems like it would be something I’d en­joy do­ing for a liv­ing.”

In the mean­time, there’s a Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship to be played against a long­time rival.

No more words. Just foot­ball. ••

You can reach at jknebels@gmail.com.

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