John (R) with family.
John Knebels, aka "Knebs", enjoyed a 30-year run as a sports columnist for the Catholic Standard and Times archdiocesan newspaper that closed in June of 2012. He is a proud graduate of Cardinal Dougherty High School, Temple University, and Cabrini College. An adjunct college instructor and high school teacher, Knebs still contributes to various local newspapers. He is writing a book about his high school alma mater and hopes to be done by the summer of 2014. In the meantime, he plans to moonlight here as an occasional reporter on what he labeled "the most prolific high school website in the nation." John can be reached at email@example.com.
Frankford 53, Fels 18
Wasn’t it just a short time ago that everyone was gleefully remarking how postseason football was being played in enjoyable, spring-like weather? Then came Thanksgiving morning, and so much for that. Freeeeeezing cold conditions greeted a decent-sized crowd at Frankford High School Stadium for the Pioneers’ fourth-annual tilt with Samuels Fels.
Unfortunately for Fels, the Panthers were catching Frankford at a really, really bad time. Less than two weeks earlier, the back-to-back Public League champion Pioneers had lost a gut-wrenching, 10-7 decision to Catholic League juggernaut St. Joseph’s Prep in the PIAA District 12 championship, and Frankford had the countenance of a bitterly angry team that was extremely anxious to rid itself of bottled-up frustration and hostility, not to mention a nasty case of “What If’s” – arguably the most mentally and emotionally challenging question a championship-caliber squad can face.
Within the initial 2:07 of the first quarter and following a recovery of an onside kick, Marquise Poston tossed a 23-yard touchdown pass to Alex Candelario. Less than three minutes later, Quinton Ellis dashed 23 yards to the end zone. Three minutes after that, Poston connected with a wide-open Rene Herrera for a 34-yard tally. So in 8:01, the Pioneers had run a grand total of 10 plays and led, 19-0. With the wind increasing in strength, thoughts of a 35-point lead and a game-long running clock danced inside the minds of the Arctic-challenged.
Alas, after falling behind by 25-0 on a four-yard TD haul by Candelario, Fels changed quarterbacks – and the contest became a tad more competitive because the new man in charge was standout senior Jylil Reeder. The next five plays from scrimmage were Reeder runs of 4, 37, 12, 1, and 10 yards, and the Panthers were on the scoreboard with 8:19 left in the second quarter. With both teams’ defenses seemingly lulled to sleep, Frankford scored twice more via a 10-yard TD pass from Poston to Wydell Compton and a nine-yard scoring run by Jarvis Cooper, sandwiched by a Fels’ tally courtesy of a 50-yard strike from Reeder to junior Kordell Robinson.
When they opened the third quarter with a six-play, 47-yard touchdown drive punctuated by an 18-yard run by Herrera, the Pioneers led by 33. Then came the score that might have induced the most cheers, a subsequent two-point conversion run by Candelario, thus increasing the margin to 47-12. When the public address announcer bellowed that the remainder of the game would be played with a running clock, the crowd went wild. Or maybe it just seemed that way – frostbite has a tendency to skew one’s thinking.
Frankford (8-4 overall) would add one more score – a 25-yard run by Cooper midway through the third quarter – before Fels (4-8) answered on the game’s last play from scrimmage, a short shovel pass from replacement QB Monythai Lay to Reeder that resulted in a 65-yard touchdown reception.
With the game – and season for these two teams – over, it was time to determine some final thoughts. Here goes:
Ending his career on an electric touchdown jaunt down the left sideline was fitting for Reeder, whose 2013 campaign included 1,076 receiving yards and 172 total points, which is 56 more than the composite production of the rest of the team. Confident as could be, Reeder is refreshing to talk with, and a joy to watch play football . . .
It is fortunate that the following tidbit was only a sidebar to an otherwise innocuous high school football game. The scariest moment of the day occurred with 11:16 left in the second quarter and served as a reminder that, other than perhaps rugby, football is the most violent sport on the planet. Following a Fels fumble and Pioneers recovery, Frankford star Damion Samuels lay sprawled on the field near the 40-yard line and appeared motionless. For the next 20 minutes or so, Samuels was attended to by trainers, Frankford’s coaching staff, at one point the entire Frankford team, and mega-concerned Fels’ star Jylil Reeder, whose helmet had met Samuels’. The sound of sirens, followed by Samuels being transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital, provided a somber reinforcement that the least important aspect of athletics is who scores more points; the only real thing to celebrate is when these amazing specimens emerge safe and healthy. Later, it was determined that Samuels had suffered a concussion, and although all head injuries should never be mitigated, that was welcomed news compared to the alternative . . .
Gotta hand it to Frankford coach Will Doggett. He made the most of his overflow roster, playing every available body at some point. Even had three different players throw passes . . .
Talk about maximizing one’s completions. Aforementioned Frankford quarterback Marquise Poston, also a flat-out force defensively, completed four of eight attempts. Three went for touchdowns, the prettiest being the also-aforementioned Wydell Compton’s one-hand snare in the end zone despite a defender draped all over him . . .
Funniest line of the day belonged to Fels coach Bill Harrigan. Despite no plays taking place at the beginning of the second quarter, the clock started running. Harrigan politely called over an official and reminded him. The official responded with a blank stare as more time went off the clock.
Then, with Harrigan now barking, there was a procedure penalty before the snap, which meant that there should still be 12 minutes remaining in the quarter. Instead, the clock kept running. Harrigan implored the same official to take control, to no avail. A quick meeting at midfield later, the official ran toward Harrigan and said, “We took care of it.” Harrigan, seeing that the clock read 11:32, said, “Took care of what? Making sure there’s enough food left for you when you get home for Thanksgiving dinner?!”
Yet another officials’ huddle later, the clock was pushed back to 11:52. Even though it still should have been 12:00. Understandably exasperated, Harrigan shook his head and mumbled to no one to particular, “Whatever.”