HomeNewsDespite Lee’s Herculean effort, Frankford falls short

Despite Lee’s Herculean effort, Frankford falls short

Curtain call: Despite a 24–14 loss t0 Prep Charter on Thanksgiving, Frankford senior Devontae Lee (right) turned in a heck of an effort, hauling in three passes, notching two interceptions and scoring both Pioneer TDs. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

Frankford High School’s first-ever Thanksgiving Day tussle with visiting Prep Charter wasn’t a total disaster.

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Pioneer fans can thank Devontae Lee for that.

In a 24–14 loss to the 10–1–1 Public League Class AA champion Huskies that seemed worse than what the scoreboard suggested, the 5-foot-11, 172-pound senior was all over the place. He intercepted two passes and returned one 40 yards for a touchdown. He caught a 28-yard scoring pass from junior Naim Franklin in the back of the end zone. He raced down field to thwart a certain touchdown with a textbook tackle at the Frankford three-yard line; Prep Charter fumbled two plays later. He was involved in 11 tackles, six all by himself.

Other than that . . .

“Nothing he does surprises me anymore,” said Frankford coach Will Doggett, donned in shorts despite the freezing temperature. “He plays hard on every play. It doesn’t matter what the score is or where we are or who we are playing.”

Described by junior two-way starting teammate Josh Mason as “an amazing player” and “unquestionably the leader of this football team,” Lee said that although he approaches every contest exactly the same, this one was especially poignant.

“Right before the game, it really hit me that this was the final high school game of my career,” said Lee, who hopes to play collegiate football but remains uncertain where he will attend. “It was kind of numbing. I wondered where all the time had gone. It came here pretty fast.”

A transfer to Frankford during his sophomore year, Lee started in the defensive secondary for the past two seasons and this fall collected eight touchdown receptions at wide receiver. Last year, Lee was among a horde of Pioneers who accumulated countless positive memories en route to their second consecutive Public League Class AAAA title.

This fall, however, has required Lee to assume a much different, albeit larger, leadership role. As the third-oldest of eight siblings, Lee recognizes that youths must rely on their elders for guidance. He takes that job quite seriously.

“There are a lot of things that can happen out there,” Lee said, referring to potential urban strife. “It could be a matter of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I want (his siblings) to see that they have to get involved . . . hang out with good people . . . put yourself in good situations and make good decisions.”

This past September, Lee said he was “never more thankful” to be playing for the Frankford football team than he was following a car crash in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia that killed one of his cousins and seriously injured another cousin; both cousins were brothers to each other.

Lee found out about the tragedy via a phone call from his father. He was very close to both cousins; in fact, Lee had seen one of them the night before the accident.

“That opened my eyes in a whole different way,” Lee said. “You never expect something like that. To have someone you love taken away really wakes you up.”

Although the Frankford coaching staff told Lee that he could miss practice or games to deal with the calamity, Lee chose to attend every practice. It proved to be a wise decision.

“My mind was obviously thinking about them all the time, but during football, I had a job to do so I stayed focused on helping the team instead of thinking about my situation,” Lee said. “My coaches and teammates could not have been more supportive.”

This winter, Lee will have an opportunity to help another Frankford squad as a small forward on the basketball team. Lee said his athleticism and quickness, along with his tenacity on defense, endeared himself to the Pioneers’ coaching staff.

Lee, whose father was a former high school hoopster, can’t wait.

“It’s different, and football is definitely still my number one sport, but I’m looking forward to this a lot,” Lee said. “I didn’t play last year because I didn’t want to get injured and have to miss any football in my senior year, but now, I’m ready to play.”

Doggett said he has no doubt that Lee’s presence will benefit the basketball team.

“He’s a smart kid, a phenomenal kid,” Doggett said. “He comes to play every day. Doesn’t matter if he’s banged up. He’s always ready to go.

“He was definitely the leader of our team. On the field, he shows how to play. In the locker room, when something needs to be said or when the kids need to be quiet for a while, he’ll step up to take care of it. I can’t say enough about the young man. I love him to death.”

On the last play of the season against Prep Charter, Lee caught his third pass of the day and, despite being down 10 points and not even at midfield, somehow chugged seven yards despite being harassed by several Prep Charter tacklers.

When he stood up, the clock showed all zeroes. It was a fitting conclusion to the end of the game, to the end of an up-and-down, 5–7 season, and to the end of a brilliant all-around performance.

“I wish we could have won, but I enjoyed this game,” Lee said. “I just love Frankford.”

Listening to Lee’s teammates and coaches, Frankford loves him right back. ••

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