Donnell Conquest (№55) and Prep Charter comes into its first Thanksgiving showdown with Frankford with a 9–1–1 record. The Huskies were the Class AA Public League champions.
After decades of a traditional Thanksgiving tilt with North Catholic and a few years of playing against Samuel Fels, it’s safe to say Frankford is just happy to have a game to look forward to in 2014.
After the game with Fels was discontinued, the Pioneers for the first time will battle Prep Charter, the Public League Class AA champions who will enter Thanksgiving with a 9–1–1 record, having recently lost a close 12–6 heartbreaker to Neumann-Goretti in the AA city title game. There was some worry that, had Prep Charter beaten Neumann-Goretti and gone to the state playoffs, this game could be in jeopardy of being played at all.
Thankfully, that won’t be the case.
“It would have been a sad state of affairs to say the least not having a Thanksgiving game after having one for almost 90 years,” Frankford head coach Will Doggett said. “It’s good that we have a game, and it should be very competitive. I think we’re going to have a very hard time with these guys. I don’t know a lot about them, so we’ll do our due diligence and try and make it a competitive ballgame. We’re looking forward to keeping the tradition of playing on this day alive, as well as maybe starting a new tradition with Prep Charter.”
Doggett said he was mostly excited for his kids, many of whom are young and haven’t been a part of a Thanksgiving game yet. Some, he said, were worriedly asking if the game would be canceled if Prep Charter beat Neumann-Goretti.
“I’m glad they can get the experience of having a Thanksgiving game,” Doggett said. “It’s something to look forward to. It’s usually a bigger crowd at the stadium since not as many parents and family members have to work. It’s about the kids. That’s why we do this stuff. We’re just happy to have a game to play.”
Usually, Frankford prepares for this game following the Class AAAA city title game, but not this year. In fact, 2014 was the first time since 2010 that the Pioneers haven’t played for the league title. The aforementioned youth and inexperience of this year’s team produced an uneven 5–6 record and a loss in the Class AAAA quarterfinals to King; a win would push the team’s record to .500 and avoid Doggett’s first losing season as head coach.
The Pioneers, who used a lot of players at many positions in 2014, were led by top rushers Ralph Hyland (355 yards, five TDs) and Nizir Graham (341 yards, four TDs). Doggett has used three quarterbacks this season, with most of the recent snaps going to junior Naim Franklin, who went 10-for-20 with 190 yards and three passing scores in the playoff loss to King. Franklin’s top target is senior Devontae Lee, who has 458 yards and seven touchdowns.
For Prep Charter, it’s mostly a heavy rushing attack with some passing mixed in. Quarterback Vian Dolo threw for 833 yards and 15 TDs while rushing for another 750 and 13 scores on the ground; however, Dolo fractured his hand in the Neumann-Goretti game and will not play against Frankford. Quadir Strothers (794 yards rushing, 14 total TDs) and Tarr Monway (568 yards rushing, seven TDs) still give Prep Charter a two-headed rushing attack. On defense, Strothers leads the team with five picks, and junior defensive end Karamo Dioubate (23 sacks) already has seven collegiate offers in hand, including one from Penn State, according to head coach David Hand.
“We wanted a meaningful game against the best team possible,” Hand said. “When we had the opportunity to play Frankford, we jumped all over it. Losing our quarterback is a huge blow and changes our scheme offensively. He’s the heart and soul of our team. He’s been a phenomenal player, so we’ll probably go more Wildcat on offense. We want to establish the run and hopefully work some screens to counteract what they do.”
In Prep Charter’s nine wins, the Huskies outscored their opponents by more than 27 points per game.
“It’s a challenge for us, and our coaches are going to break down the film all week long,” Doggett said. “Fortunately, we have a week-and-a-half to get ourselves ready for them. From what I can see they have good size, while we’re young and light. They’ve earned the respect by winning AA, which is nothing to sneeze at.”
“Both teams would love a victory heading into the offseason, and it’s an opportunity to come together one last time to cap off the season with a win,” Hand said.
Ultimately, having a tough, talented team to prepare for certainly beats having nothing to prepare for at all for Frankford.
“It’s a great way to start off your Thanksgiving,” Doggett said. “The day is set up to be thankful … we’re thankful we have a game to play and we’re thankful we’re playing a quality opponent who’s likely to give us a headache.” ••
Frankford head coach Will Doggett is in his fourth season.