Thanksgiving preview: Mitchell helps put Frankford back on map

Nadir Mitchell helped Frankford reach the Public League 5A championship game. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Nadir Mitchell wanted to win.

But more importantly, he wanted to win where he was.

Mitchell is a senior at Frankford High School, and for the last three years, he’s been playing running back and defensive back for the Pioneers.

Sophomore year ended in a 5-7 campaign and last year, when Frankford and all Public League teams played during the spring, the Pioneers went 1-4-1. The teams weren’t terrible or anything, but Mitchell’s goal was to compete for championships and his squads didn’t do that.

“I thought about transferring because I really wanted to win, but I didn’t want to because I love everything about the school,” said Mitchell, who recently moved from Lawncrest to the Far Northeast. “It could have been easier to go somewhere else, but I really wanted to win at Frankford.

“I know the traditions and about all the championships and everything here. Coach (Damon Brockington) always tells us about that. I wanted to do it here. I wanted to make Frankford a winner again.”

Mission accomplished.

With Mitchell as the lead back and a starting corner, Frankford got back to its winning ways, going undefeated during the regular season, and has gone on to play in the Public League Class 5A championship against Imhotep Charter.

It’s been a great year, but it’s not over.

The Pioneers are set to square off with Cheltenham on Thanksgiving. Kickoff is set for 9:45 at Frankford Stadium.

Since North Catholic closed, the Pioneers have had a lot of different dance partners on the holiday. They’ve done battle with Boys Latin, Conwell-Egan, Samuel Fels and Prep Charter. Now, they play their fifth different opponent. The Panthers, led by former Northeast assistant Troy Gore, went 5-6 this year, but won five of their final seven games.

One game they didn’t get to play was an early season game against Frankford, which was canceled after storms caused havoc on the area at the end of the summer.

It’s also a day when the Pioneers will honor one of their own.

At halftime of the game, the school will celebrate the life of Matt Evangelist. The 1986 graduate, who led the Pioneers to the Public League championship, passed away earlier this year after a nearly three-month battle with coronavirus.

His teammates, along with some of his opponents from North Catholic, are expected to turn out as the Pioneers will unveil a plaque to honor the all-everything athlete. His family, including his wife Karen, and two children Matthew and Jenna are slated to be there for the ceremony.

Honoring Evangelist is a huge part of the event, and Mitchell  is happy to learn about the history of Frankford and all of the great men who played before him.

That’s something Brockington has made a priority since he became the head coach this summer. He also demands a lot of effort and dedication.

“He’s at the field every day and he wants us to be there working hard,” Mitchell said. “He really pushes us. He knows what we’re capable of.”

Mitchell is capable of a lot. And he proved that last spring.

Mitchell has always been a football player, but freshman year he gave lacrosse a shot and he fell in love with the sport. Usually it’s not an issue, football is a fall sport while lacrosse is contested in the spring, but last year the Public League played football in the early spring, so he was doing double duty.

It wasn’t a chore, though, it was something he loved.

“I would go to one practice and then go to the other, if I had a game, I would go to that and I would try to get to everything I could,” said Mitchell, who plays midfield in lacrosse. “I wasn’t getting a lot of time my freshman year and the lacrosse coach told me he thought I’d be good. I fell in love with it. I’m more of a football player, but I love lacrosse.

“Lacrosse has definitely helped me with football. In lacrosse, it’s running nonstop. Football is easy when you play lacrosse. I never get tired. I play both ways and I’m never tired. If you can play lacrosse, you’ll be in way better shape for football.”

Next year, Mitchell would love to go to college where he could play both sports. He’s unsure what he wants to study, but he does like computers and working with technology, so those are options.

He’s looking forward to the future, but he’s happy he left the Pioneers better than he found them.

“Frankford has a tradition and it’s going to be good after this year,” Mitchell said. “I really wanted to win here. It means a lot that we had a good year.

“Cheltenham is going to be a fun game. I know some of the players and one of the coaches. They’re a good team. We like playing teams outside the city. It’s going to be tough, we want a tough game. That’s how you get better.”