Raheem White didn’t always take football seriously.
White, a senior at Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter, played football at the club level for Oxford Circle, and two years ago, he decided to join a 7-on-7 league with the Philly Playmakers. There, he held his own against some of the fastest players in the area and it showed him he had what it took to compete at the high school level.
“It was fun, it’s fast in that league and you’re going up against the best players,” said White, now in his second year as a wide receiver and defensive back for the Frankford High School football team. “You don’t get a lot of help in those leagues so you have to cover your man by yourself. It’s hard, but I loved it.”
Playing in that league was fun. But playing for the Pioneers is special.
White is a bit of a historian when it comes to Frankford football and ever since he joined the squad prior to his junior season, he’s been learning about all of the greats who graced the locker room. As much as he loves the game, knowing of all the legendary figures who played on that field has given him the drive to push that much harder.
“It’s really something to know the history of the program, that’s my favorite thing about playing here,” White said. “Our coaches have taught us a lot about it. Great players have been playing there every year. This year, we have to live up to that (standard).”
One day the Pioneers always seemed to shine brightest was on Thanksgiving morning, when they annually squared off against neighborhood rival North Catholic. After North closed, the Pioneers squared off with many different teams on Thanksgiving, including Fels, Conwell-Egan and Prep Charter. But it appears the Pioneers finally have their dance partner for the holiday.
For the second year in a row, Frankford will host Boys Latin on Thanksgiving. The rivalry is built off friendship and respect and one White is looking forward to.
“We really like them, over the summer we had a rally for peace in honor of one of their players who was killed,” White said. “We want to beat them because we know them, but we respect them. We like them. It’s like they’re our friends, but we want to beat them on Thanksgiving.
“It’s fun to have a rival. We have a lot of teams we play, but they’re our rival. It’s a really big game for us and them. We all want to win.”
Frankford hasn’t won a lot of games this year, but they’ve been competitive. The Pioneers finished regular season play at 2-7, but did knock off Central and Bensalem for their triumphs.
And a lot of their success can be attributed to White, who was one of the top defenders on the team.
The team captain was a polished receiver, but his favorite part about playing the game was lining up against a top receiver and keeping him away from big plays.
“I only had one interception, but I did have a lot of pass deflections and I broke up some plays,” White said. “I will usually go up against the other team’s best player. I would go to the left and the right. I did pretty good. I only gave up one touchdown, that was against Imhotep (Charter), and those guys are good.”
Stopping opposing star receivers wasn’t White’s only important job.
When the team picked captains, his name was called. It was like music to his ears.
“That meant everything to me,” White said .”Before, I tried to be a leader, but a lot of times I’d sit back and let things happen. Now I’m a captain. I make sure everything is taken care of. I make sure the locker room is clean, I make sure everything is off the field after practice. The things leaders have to do.
“It’s not too hard. We have a good team. They want to do right and they want to win. Practice has been better lately. We’re working hard.”
White is working hard on the field and also in the classroom. He wants to graduate and then go to college, where he’ll play football.
“I want to major in business, and go into real estate,” White said .”My parents do that. It’s a good way to make money.”
But before he’s flipping houses, he wants to keep the Pioneers from falling on Thanksgiving in the new rivalry. Frankford won the first meeting in a back-and-forth game. This year, he wants it to be all Pioneers.
“I played good last year, I didn’t give up a touchdown,” White said. “But they’re good. They like to throw. We’ll be ready for them. I think we can do it.”