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

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. ••

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