Wednesday afternoon, during a team meeting held in preparation for yesterday's Thanksgiving game with North Catholic, Frankford coach Al Angelo indeed likened his team to downtrodden pooches. Less than 24 hours later, Angelo's underdogs prevailed in surprisingly (stunningly?) easy fashion, 34-17.
There was no offense intended, fellas.
Angelo's pronouncement did not stem from an absence of faith as much as a knowledge of history - both of the Frankford-North series specifically and the Public-Catholic rivalries generally.
"To me," Angelo said, "a Public League team is always the underdog, especially when they're going against a strong Catholic League team.
"I can remember years when we had championship teams, while North Catholic many times came into the game with mediocre to poor Catholic League teams, yet beat us. I played in those games (1947, '48). Assistant-coached in them ('60 unofficially, '64 officially). Head-coached in them ('69, '73, '78, '84). Hey, I lived through all that. I've seen what happens.
"In '72, a year in which we won the Public League championship, North Catholic hardly scored a touchdown the whole year, hardly even won a game. But they tied us, 12-12. You could look it up."
Mark Dooling, a senior who stars at center and defensive tackle, and played last year (under John McAneney) for a team that won a championship but fell to North, must be classified as something of a Frankford-North, Public-Catholic history buff, too.
Because when Angelo said "underdog" Wednesday, Dooling did not look up to the ceiling and roll his eyes.
"We weren't mad at him," said Dooling, a 5-11, 195-pounder. "We knew what he was referring to - that everybody thinks the Catholic League is stronger than us. You can look at the results every Thanksgiving. The Catholic League teams almost always beat the Public League teams.
"The thing is, it's never in our minds that the Catholic League is stronger. We went out there to prove a point. We're not weaker than the Catholic League teams. We're just as strong, if not stronger."
Dooling had a paw (tough, surly linemen don't have hands) in each of Frankford's first two touchdowns, which came after Jim Colgan had staked North to a 3-0 lead with a 30-yard field goal.
Late in the first quarter, Dooling forced a fumble by North quarterback Dave Markowski and Jason Cebular recovered on the 11. Fullback Darren Swift (20 carries, 175 yards) ran for 3 yards, then QB Terrant Morrison scored on an 8-yard keeper to the left.
North's next series was terminated on play No. 5 as Dooling - getting selfish, by this point - both forced and recovered a Markowski fumble. Frankford negotiated 34 yards in eight plays to score, as Morrison (7-yard keeper to the right) again did the honors.
In the Temple Stadium stands, Jerry Dooling almost wanted to condemn his son as much as he wanted to commend him.
"My father went to North," Mark said, smiling. "My mother (Lee) went to Frankford. Yeah, they sat together. On our side. But all week my father was saying, 'I can't wait until next year when you're out of Frankford and I can get back to rooting for North.'
For Morrison, who also scored Frankford's third TD (on a 1-yard sneak with 2:58 left in the third quarter), the game afforded a chance to grab for some all-too-rare gusto.
The way the rushing of tailback Sean Parish (17-124) and Swift has enabled Frankford to role up yardage - and accompanying big, early leads - this season, Morrison has been called upon to do little more than hand off.
But on each of his first two TDs, Morrison showed athletic ability and dive-for-the-end-zone guts.
"We came in here knowing exactly what we wanted to do. No matter their
size, we were going to run it right at them. As soon as I'd call my first signal, they were doing things to try to confuse us. Play-calling got to be a guessing game for us. But at a couple key times, they had an 'even' front (four linemen) when we wanted them to and we broke plays for long gains."
One such occasion came in the first minute of the fourth quarter, after a 9-yard pass from Markowski (a whopping 25-for-42 for 259 yards) to Jamie Makowski (11 receptions, 123 yards) had allowed North to creep within 20-10.
While left guard Joe Susinskas nursed a minor injury, Angelo inserted Bok transfer Thomas Jackson, called for a guard trap to Swift, then murmered to no one in particular, "If Jackson can make his block, this play might go."
Jackson made his block, all right. The play went for a killer 70-yard TD, and North fans streamed for the exits as if they had been informed of a bomb scare.
Moving back to Wednesday, Angelo is pretty sure he broached one other subject as he talked to the team - Frankford's pursuit of an undefeated season for only the third time in the school's 74-year football history.
The 1940 and 1980 teams were 9-0 and 10-0, respectively. Frankford can go to 11-0 - and win the Public League championship, of course - by beating Murrell Dobbins Dec. 5 at Northeast (2 p.m.).
"I think I mentioned it," Angelo said, smiling. "Geez, I say so many things, I'm not sure. It seems like I'm always talking. I don't even know how often they listen to me."
The next time Al Angelo calls a powerhouse Frankford team an underdog before the North game, his players might not hear him at all.