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 recently began 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frankford 32, Fels 0
I’ve read the phrase on this website on numerous occasions, but never experienced its wisdom firsthand. “Only in the Pub,” a term coined by century-long (smile) King of High School Sports Ted Silary in honor of the Twilight Zone episodes he has encountered “along the trail,” meant little to yours truly. As a former columnist for the since-closed Catholic Standard and Times for the past 30 years, there weren’t many “Only in the Cath” moments. And if there were, you would face possible excommunication if mentioned in your story.
Then came this past Thanksgiving, and, well, now I have a thoroughly better understanding of what “Only in the Pub” means.
On an unseasonably warm late-fall morning before approximately 200 fans (generously speaking), Fels visited Frankford. Like the other two games in this tradition that began when North Catholic closed its doors in June of 2010, Frankford won handily.
The Pioneers’ 32-0 victory capped an outstanding season highlighted by a Public League championship and a perfect 8-0 record against their fellow brethren. To Fels’ credit, the Panthers did not appear intimidated. Not before the game, not during, and not after.
Fels, led by senior two-way lineman Deionte Johnson, provided several bone-jarring hits, sacked standout quarterback Tim DiGiorgio three times, blanketed Frankford’s receivers more often than not, and came within a whisker of two big-time plays that wouldn’t have necessarily turned the game around, but certainly would have helped ease the frustration of spending 48 minutes against an opponent that was unarguably physically stronger and more athletic than you. And when you are a teenage boy, few tasks are more daunting than acquiescing to that reality.
Ah, enough of the psychobabble. There was a game played that produced a wealth of entertainment and bewilderment. Here are just a few . . .
“Only in the Pub” first reared its hysterical head after everyone lined up for the opening kickoff, only for the officials to blow the non-kickoff dead because they realized there was no chain gang.
Time for Frankford coach Will Doggett and his trademark long shorts to walk toward the stands and ask anyone, ANYONE, to please volunteer their services, no experience necessary. “I’ll do it for an extra turkey,” said one. “What’s the pay? Better be more than minimum wage,” said another. All in jest, of course. So a few minutes later, several Frankford zealots trudged to the other side of the field to begrudgingly afford some unforeseen community service.
Okay, time for the kickoff, which turned out to be a nifty, 30-yard return by Frankford junior Brandon Jack to the Pioneers’ 45-yard line. Time for some football! Oh, wait, did someone say “time?” That might be a problem, because the clock still said “12:00” until a certain reporter alerted a nearby official that the clock hadn’t started, only to be emphatically advised, “It doesn’t need to start yet.” Really? Last checked, football games begin as soon as someone other than the placekicker touches the ball. Ahh, maybe it was too early in the day for the official to recognize what he obviously knew all along, thereby necessitating a second whistle and hand waving.
Volunteer timekeeper anyone? Amenities would include being perched atop the stands, a better view no doubt. Time was kept on the field until a clock guy emerged, though it took until the 6-minute mark of the first quarter for the clock time to match the accurate – using that word lightly – time that was being kept on the field. “We have a volunteer running the clock,” said a booming voice over the loudspeaker, “so bear with it.”
You can’t make this stuff up. “Only in the Pub” indeed . . .
The major storyline was DiGiorgio needing 206 yards to become the second quarterback in Public League history to amass 4,000 passing yards. There was also talk about reaching 376 that would have equaled the all-time mark of 4,170 by 2010 Northeast High graduate Malik Stokes.
First things first.
Reaching 206 didn’t seem to be a potential problem, and it really wasn’t. Though sprinkling in some runs here and there, including junior Quinton Ellis’ 15-yard scoring jaunt to opening the scoring, Frankford’s game plan was pretty simple. We will throw a lot and you, Fels, will have to figure out a way to stop us.
DiGiorgio’s personally historic throw would occur with two minutes left in the third quarter, a 31-yard dart to eminently likable (post-game interviews confirmed such plaudits) senior Renz Compton. In addition to ultimately leading to a six-yard scoring toss to junior Juwan Manning on the third play of the fourth stanza – DiGiorgio’s third of the day and 44th of a two-year career that reportedly warranted a visit from a University of Pittsburgh scout in Frankford’s championship triumph over George Washington – it improved the lanky lad’s game total to 213 and, da da da dahhhhh, his career total to 4,007. DiGiorgio would later add four more completions to finish the day 19 for 31 for 267 yards – those numbers would have been even better but Frankford struggled with a serious case of the drops – and thus finish his career with 4,061 yards. Oh, and his last career scholastic connection? A 14-yard fling to Compton on the last play of the game. There was something strangely poetic – or maybe just symbolic – about that, probably because it was two talented seniors enjoying a minor accomplishment on the last-possible second of the season.
However, if there had been a vote for “play of the game,” that would have paled in comparison to the following . . .
The Pioneers already led 20-0 on the aforementioned Ellis touchdown run, a seven-yard snare by Compton (4 catches, 58 yards), a two-point conversion pass from DiGiorgio to junior Renee Herrera, and, on the next play that followed an onside kick that was recovered by junior Tahkeem Abdel, a 50-yard, over-the-shoulder catch and run by Herrera (3 catches for 71 yards) despite being well-covered by Fels’ impressive D-back Dexter Smith.
Seven seconds remained. Halftime anyone? Not quite. Remember, this is the Pub.
On a “what-the-heck-what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen” heave downfield by Fels’ harassed-all-game-long quarterback Isaiah Brinkley, Compton grabbed one of three Frankford interceptions inside the five-yard line. He ran eight yards before being swallowed by Fels’ defenders who couldn’t quite tackle the stubborn safety. Undaunted, Compton lateralled to junior Ryshawn Ladson, who then raced 26 yards downfield before fumbling while being tackled. Taking the “play-to-the-whistle” mantra precisely the way it is intended, Ellis picked up the pigskin at the 39, sped down the sidelines, cut right, then left, then right, then went straight, then left again all the way to pay dirt. Frankford’s players were going crazy with unbridled glee. A celebration ensued in the end zone, but wait . . . no, please don’t tell us that yellow flag on the beaten-down grass was going to nullify this “Only in the Pub” extravaganza. Turns out that the Frankford sideline inadvertently impeded an official who was trying in vain to follow the play downfield. Thank goodness, the penalty did not wipe away the storybook touchdown.
The fourth quarter would be played with some running clock, but other than those who had hoped DiGiorgio would establish a Public League passing record, no one complained.
After the civil post-game handshake that belied the constant trash talking between the two squads that necessitated many a warning from the officials who did a fine job in maintaining order to a game that got extremely chippy in the second half, Frankford’s seniors commenced a school tradition of pushing the blocking sleds for the last time. A vocally animated Doggett got them going in pairs, and eventually it was DiGiorgio and Compton’s turn. When the two moved the sled about three yards forward before an awkward slide to their left, Doggett encouraged them to try it again. This time, as they had done countless times during the past two years, the duo, accompanied by loud applause from their teammates, worked together to maneuver the sled 16 yards. MUCH better! Then came Devon Moore and Kelvin Coit’s turn, and the combined 490 pounds of bulk pushed that stationary machine 30 yards like they were taking a stroll in the park.
Gathering his equipment, Fels’ senior Hakeem Johnson-Stokes appeared transfixed while watching the spectacle. Ignoring the fact that he had just been an opponent minutes earlier, the two-year captain shouted a request.
“Hey,” he said, flashing a wide smile, “I got next.”
Only in the Pub.