Pioneer punch

  • All smiles: (Left-right) Frankford’s Erik McDaniel, Rasheed Muhammad, Christian Santiago and Hassan Ramsey during the 33-14 win over G.W. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

  • Big man in charge: Frankford’s Kadar Jones blocked a punt that led to a Pioneer touchdown and was an integral part of chasing down Washington QB Cedric Wright all night. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

  • Stand and deliver: Frankford QB Marquise Poston accounted for four touchdowns in a runaway 33-14 win over George Washington. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

For Frank­ford foot­ball, three lop­sided non-league losses to open the 2013 cam­paign now seem like an­cient his­tory.

In­deed, ab­so­lutely over­whelm­ing your biggest rival has a way of eras­ing past fail­ures, es­pe­cially ones that didn’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things.

On Fri­day night at North­east High School, the de­fend­ing Pub­lic League cham­pi­ons ab­so­lutely white­washed George Wash­ing­ton in a 33-14 rout. It was by far the most im­press­ive Frank­ford has looked this sea­son, and giv­en the usu­al qual­ity of its op­pon­ent, it’s hard to ar­gue that after six games, the Pi­on­eers (3-3 over­all, 3-0 di­vi­sion) are an early fa­vor­ite to re­peat as champs in the AAAA Gold Di­vi­sion.

After a per­form­ance so dom­in­ant in all three fa­cets of the game (of­fense, de­fense and spe­cial teams), it begs the simple ques­tion: what changed so sud­denly?

“Dis­cip­line, dis­cip­line, dis­cip­line.”

Those were the words uttered by Frank­ford seni­or two-way line­man Kadar Jones fol­low­ing the state­ment vic­tory. Jones, a phys­ic­ally im­pos­ing young man at 6-foot-2 and nearly 300 pounds, was cent­rally in­volved in all as­pects of the vic­tory. On of­fense, he helped cre­ate holes at the line of scrim­mage that racked up 267 rush­ing yards on 41 at­tempts, mainly led by seni­or backs Dami­on Samuels (10 car­ries, 83 yards, TD) and Quin­ton El­lis (8, 81) and seni­or quar­ter­back Mar­quise Po­ston (9, 54, 2 TDs). On de­fense, Jones was a key cog in a group that ter­ror­ized Eagles quar­ter­back Cedric Wright all night, sack­ing him sev­en times for a total loss of 42 yards. 

But it was on spe­cial teams where Jones may have made the biggest im­pact. After the teams traded three-and-outs to open the game, he burst through the line and blocked a Wash­ing­ton punt deep in Eagle ter­rit­ory that Jones re­covered on the eight-yard line. Three plays later, Po­ston scored on a keep­er from two yards out. On the very next Wash­ing­ton pos­ses­sion, Jones led an­oth­er charge through the line; this time, team­mate Chris­ti­an San­ti­ago got there first to swat away the punt at­tempt. Frank­ford took over on the Eagles’ 37 and scored three plays later, again on a short Po­ston run that the QB set up him­self by scram­bling 27 yards on the drive’s first play.

Just like that, Frank­ford led 13-0, and the rout was un­der­way in a game many figured would be a nailbiter. Jones, who has suited up for his fair share of con­tests against the pro­gram’s biggest rival, again kept all reas­on­ing con­cise.

“We just did our jobs, every single one of us,” he said. “It feels good, man. It al­ways feels good to beat those guys. That’s a good team over there. It was just work­ing for us, and we did what we were sup­posed to do as a team.”

It was a com­ing-out party of sorts for Po­ston, who is still find­ing his way un­der cen­ter for the Pi­on­eers. Per­haps spurred on by the pres­ence of Tim Di­Gior­gio (the re­cord-set­ting Frank­ford quar­ter­back from 2011-12 joined his alma ma­ter on the field for pregame warm-ups and post­game cel­eb­ra­tions), Po­ston sprang to life for four total touch­downs. After the game, the past and present of Frank­ford sig­nal callers shared a giddy em­brace near mid­field.

Jones, who plays on both sides of the ball with Po­ston (a de­fend­er first, quar­ter­back second), has seen his team­mate’s ma­tur­ity, con­fid­ence and lead­er­ship abil­ity in­crease ten­fold since last sea­son.

“Mar­quise is very smart,” Jones said. “He’s im­proved a lot. He’s com­fort­able now, and he al­ways stays on top of us. He’s just a good quar­ter­back. He’s a lead­er, and he’s very fo­cused.”

In ad­di­tion to his two short rush­ing scores, Po­ston com­pleted five of his 10 passes for 63 yards and two scor­ing strikes, a 10-yard toss to tight end Rob Sim­mons that made it 27-0 in the second quarter, and an 18-yard pass to seni­or re­ceiv­er Juwan Man­ning that made it 33-0 with 4:30 to go. Wash­ing­ton ad­ded two touch­downs in garbage time to make the score more re­spect­able.

When he ad­dressed his team fol­low­ing the win, Pi­on­eers head coach Will Dog­gett com­men­ded them on by far their best ef­fort of the sea­son, mak­ing those lop­sided losses to Penns­bury, Down­ing­town East and Arch­bish­op Wood seem like they came from a com­pletely dif­fer­ent group. In many ways, they did.

“That was a good job, a good win against a good team,” Dog­gett said. “Now, it’s time to get ready for Cent­ral (Fri­day, 3 p.m., Frank­ford Sta­di­um). And listen to me … we’re go­ing to see these guys (Wash­ing­ton) again, and you just saw what a great week of prac­tice brings your way. Now let’s go have an­oth­er one.”

Samuels, per­haps the most vo­cally per­son­able play­er on Frank­ford’s roster, said the team ban­ded to­geth­er fol­low­ing the un­char­ac­ter­ist­ic 0-3 start, de­cid­ing to throw those res­ults out the win­dow and not let the sour taste of de­feat linger in­to the Pub­lic League slate. So far, with dom­in­ant wins over North­east, Fur­ness and now Wash­ing­ton in tow, it ap­pears the strategy worked.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about heart,” Samuels said. “And this team has so much heart.”

For Jones and his team­mates, the dom­in­ant show of force in­dic­ated one thing about where the Pi­on­eers are, and more im­port­antly, where they’re head­ing. 

“Back to the ‘ship, man,” Jones said, re­fer­ring to the Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship game, which Frank­ford has ap­peared in the last two sea­sons. “We’re go­ing, but we have to look at this one and get bet­ter from it first. We al­lowed them to score a couple late touch­downs. That’s what we’ll fo­cus on in prac­tice this week, not the win. We know that in or­der to go where we want to go, we have to be bet­ter.”

After Fri­day night’s per­form­ance, that pro­spect was hard to ima­gine. ••

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