It was halftime in the locker room for the Wayne Hills High School football team, and the Patriots were trailing archrival Wayne Valley, 14-0, in game two of the regular season.
In addition to being somewhat dominated in the first 24 minutes, Wayne Hills had a problem on its offensive line, as one of its starters had a leg injury and was doubtful to play in the second half.
First-year head coach Wayne Demikoff had a decision to make, and he yelled out “Frank. You ready?”
Frank was sitting with the other sophomores, away from the immediate action of a frantic locker room. When he heard Demikoff call his name, there was no oral communication, just a clinched fist, and a big smile, which said that Frank was, indeed, ready.
That night was a ‘welcome to varsity football’ for sophomore Frank Petracco, who would play the entire second half and a short overtime, as Wayne Hills rallied to defeat the Indians, 17-14, at Hills.
For the next three years, Petracco would be an anchor on the Wayne Hills line. And when he wasn’t playing football, he was a standout in the classroom.
The end result would be the opportunity to play football at one of the premier colleges on the East Coast, Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore.
As fast as that moment seemed six years ago, when he first got ‘the call’, Frank Petracco’s football career has now wound down.
And, the 22 year-old is just fine with that.
“It’s been great,” said Petracco via telephone last week, as Johns Hopkins prepared for its season finale, against neighboring Stevenson University, at the Centennial Mac Bowl Series, in Owings Mills, Md. “Coming to Johns Hopkins has been great, both in the classroom and the football field, for me. It’s everything I could have ever wanted.”
The second of three sons born to Stephanie and Frank Petracco, Frank is working on a double major, in Economics and International Studies. He’ll graduate on time, this coming May, and has law school in mind, for the fall of 2021.
In the meantime, Frank, who got the opportunity to work in the office of New Jersey Senator Robert Menende, on Capitol Hill last year, hopes to continue that kind of work in 2020.
“I loved it,” said Petracco. “I had the chance to work on the Foreign Relations Committee. It was for six weeks, 10 hours a day, and I got the opportunity to learn about foreign policy.”
“I’d like to stay in the Baltimore/DC area,” he added. “I hope to go to law school here, too. I’m not sure what area of law I’d like to study, but I have some ideas.”
On the gridiron, Petracco’s play on the offensive line helped Johns Hopkins defeat Stevenson, 51-28, to wrap up an 8-3 season. He’s been playing regularly for the Blue Jays since his freshman year.
His parents have been regulars at his games; home, or away.
“They’ve always been there for me,” he said. “They never miss a game and I can’t thank them enough.”
Petracco’s memories of playing at Wayne Hills are good.
“They were great times,” he said. “Honestly, I think playing at Hills was harder than college. It really prepared me for the next level.”
After a few struggling seasons, the Patriots returned to form in Frank’s senior year, 2015, when the team was 9-3 and played for a state sectional championship, at MetLife Stadium.
“That was a great run,” recalled Frank. “We started the season by playing in North Carolina and from there had a good regular season. Then, in the playoffs, we went to Indian Hills and won (in the sectional semifinals). That whole experience, along with preparing for a state final, was surreal. That win over Indian Hills put us in MetLife, and I remember how excited we all were about going back there (after a 4-year hiatus). I really believe our team helped get the program back to where it belonged.”
While Petracco missed out on a state title in 2015, he is correct in that Wayne Hills’ success, with a record of 29-6 between 2016-2018, which included two state championships and a North Group 4 bowl title, was spurred on by what the ’15 squad had accomplished.
Demikoff agreed, too. After Hills had defeated Wayne Valley, 31-24, in the 2016 state final at MetLife, most of the Patriots gathered at a local eatery. Petracco also stopped by, and the first thing Demikoff said to him was how much he had wanted that title for last year’s team.
“Frank, Joey Kenny, Vinny LoVerde, Tom Skiba and so many others had really helped get us back, and I wish those guys could have experienced a finals win,” Demikoff said that evening. “I hope they know that this championship is for them, too.”
Three years later, Demikoff couldn’t be happier for Petracco’s success.
“Frank is a leader on and off the field,” said Demikoff. “He always competed at a high level on every play. His work ethic and toughness was always evident on and off the field. He’s just a great kid. I always believed he would be successful in anything he decided to do due to these traits. He was successful here, at Hopkins and will continue to be in the next facet of his life.”
Mike Lamberti is a freelance reporter and blogger who covers multiple sports in multiple towns. Visit his blog when you can: https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/
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