Arnault plays for mom in Frankford’s win

Frankford senior Kervin Arnault played his last game as a Pioneer after his mother passed away last week.

Kervin Arnault played a huge role in helping Frankford down Fels 36–0 on Friday in the first round of the playoffs. JOE MASON / TIMES PHOTO

For the Pioneers, it meant they were moving on.

For Kervin Arnault, it was a final chance to play with friends.

Arnault was a senior offensive guard on the Frankford High School football team, and Saturday’s victory over Samuel Fels in the first round of the Public League Class 5A playoffs was the perfect way to cap off an emotional week and a great Pioneers’ career.

“My mother (Kettly Espera) passed away on Friday,” said Arnault, who was standing in the south end zone at Frankford while still wearing his helmet and clutching the game ball he received immediately after the Pioneers defeated the Panthers, 36–0. “I’m holding up OK. She had cancer, pancreatic cancer, so I’ll be moving to Florida to live with my aunt.”

Arnault is leaving for his new home this week, which means he will never again play a game with Frankford.

He’s going out a winner, and he’s going out with his best friends.

“I see this team as a whole bunch of brothers,” said Arnault, who lived about three blocks away from the high school and even closer to the stadium. “We put our heart in this game. Playing with this team has been great because whenever I need something, these guys are there for me.”

Arnault was rock solid at guard, helping the Pioneers jump all over the Panthers. They scored 14 points in the first quarter and enjoyed a 36-point cushion at halftime. The second half flew by because it was played under a running clock.

The Panthers hung tough, though. They dressed only 17 players, while the Pioneers have subs at just about every position.

Speaking of hanging tough, Arnault has been doing it ever since his mom was diagnosed with the disease about two years ago.

When he wasn’t at school or football practice, he was routinely making visits to see her.

“She was at Temple Hospital for a while, and then she moved to Nazareth,” Arnault said. “I loved going to see her. I knew it was coming because she was so sick, but it still hurts. I’m lucky to have a lot of great friends (on the team) and I have good family. My step-pop and my brother helped me a lot. I’m the youngest, so it’s hard, but I’m holding up.

“Losing her was very sad, but I expected it to happen. I’m glad she’s not sick any more.”

Losing his mother was the worst thing he experienced, but now he’s going to miss wearing the Frankford colors. But if he has to go out, he left in the best way possible.

“I’m glad I had one final game here,” Arnault said with a smile. “We played pretty good. Playoff football is great. It means a lot that I had the chance to play with these guys one final time. I’ve been with them for a while and they’re brothers. This team is a family and I am really going to miss playing with them.”

Arnault hopes to sign up to play in Florida, but he’s unsure if his new school’s season is over. If it’s not, he’ll work hard on preparing for a football career in college.

“I’m looking forward to some things in Florida,” said Arnault, who will be making his first visit to the Sunshine State when he moves this week. “The weather looks good. I’m excited about some things. But I’ll miss a lot of the things here.”

Obviously, one of the biggest things he’ll miss is continuing to help the Pioneers on their quest for a Public League championship.

Frankford will host Mastery North on Friday at 3 p.m. in the Public League semifinals. A victory, and Frankford will return to its second straight title game appearance.

The Pioneers will certainly miss their big guy in the middle of the line.

“Kervin is an emotional guy and he’s a talker for us and it’s tough because it’s his last game for us,” Frankford coach Dom Doyle said. “I’m glad he was able to play in a game like this, because they played well and he did a great job for us.”

Arnault predicts his biggest fan would have enjoyed the game had she been around to watch.

His mom wasn’t a huge football fan, but she loved watching her boy play for the Pioneers, and there’s no doubt she would have enjoyed watching them cruise in the playoff game.

“She would have cried tears of joy,” said Arnault, who was a three-year wrestler at Frankford. “She would have been very happy with today. She was always happy when we won, and I know she would have loved watching this game.”

Arnault won’t be able to watch the Pioneers in their quest for a championship, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a huge supporter. And leader.

Just because he’ll be in Florida doesn’t mean he can’t continue to be the leader that made him such a key part of the Pioneers’ success.

“We can celebrate, but not too much because we can’t let this go to our heads,” Arnault said. “You have to stay focused. A win is good, but you have to get ready for the next one. If you celebrate too much, you can’t do that. You can’t be too happy because then you won’t stay hungry.”

That hunger still burns inside Arnault. Even though he won’t be around to watch his team, he’ll still be there in spirit.

“I followed a bunch of guys on Instagram and I’ll make sure I find out how they’re doing,” Arnault said. “And I’ll be back. As soon as I get down there, I’ll start saving my money and any chance I get, I’ll be back here. I know I’ll miss them, but I know I’ll be back soon.” ••