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.”
“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. ••