With less than a minute remaining in Friday night’s PIAA 4A quarterfinal game at Benjamin L. Johnston Memorial Stadium, Frankford High quarterback Naim Franklin lobbed the ball to receiver Devontae Lee in the end zone.
Their Pioneers team trailed the MLK High Cougars by eight. A touchdown catch would bring about them within a two-point conversion of overtime. Lee caught the ball. His feet did not land inbounds.
On the next play, MLK defensive back Edward Marshall intercepted Franklin in the end zone to preserve a 28-20 victory for the Cougars and a slot in the semifinals next Friday.
By the start of the fourth quarter, the Cougars led 22-7.
A lot of that was thanks to a pair of touchdowns and more than 200 rushing yards from running back Paul Sanchez, and one in the air by receiver Mark McCray.
The Pioneers, who led 7-6 at halftime, refused to quit.
Lee would snag two fourth-quarter touchdown receptions (31 and 39 yards respectively).
Leading 22-20 with a steady rain starting to fall at the Germantown Supersite, an unsuccessful onside-kick attempt and a face-mask call against the Pioneers led to 3-yard touchdown run for Cougars quarterback Nasir Boykin.
That set the stage for Lee’s almost-touchdown reception in the game’s final minute.
“It’s right back to what we do,” Cougars head coach Ed Dunn told his players after a win that brought them within two games of a Public League-title defense. “Hell of a win, guys. Be safe tonight and we’re back to work on Monday.”
With the victory, the Cougars (5-5) advanced to the PIAA 4A District 12 semifinals.
They will face the Gratz Bulldogs (9-1) at Gratz’s Marcus Foster Stadium (Hunting Park Ave. near N. 16th St. and Germantown Ave.) The game kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday.
The teams did not face one another this year (Gratz won last season’s opener 22-14) but battled a pair of common opponents thanks to playoff matchups.
Both teams defeated Frankford (MLK on Friday and Gratz 20-14 on Sept. 26) and Northeast (MLK 50-49 on Oct. 3 and Gratz 24-8 on Friday).