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It was meant to be Frankie's moment

Varsity vs Port Jervis HS on 9/20/2008
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2008 by TH-R
Times Herald-Record
September 21, 2008

MIDDLETOWN — The ball went spiraling into the air and Middletown junior receiver Frankie Molina ran his hardest to get under it. There was never a more important football moment for him than right here, scoreless tie, Middies-Port Jervis for the Erie Bell, a month removed from horrific tragedy.

The ball finally came down from the sky and Molina extended his arms far as they could reach, watching the ball, thinking of mom, making her proud every step of the way. The football stuck to his fingertips and Molina was in the end zone, a 31-yard touchdown reception 8:00 before halftime, a catch that would represent the game-winning points and end Middletown's losing streak to Port at 11 games.

His name came over the loudspeaker and you could almost hear whispers from the Middletown fans. Hey, that was Frankie Molina. And then it hit home to everyone who knew his story and instantly became Frankie Molina fans, didn't matter if you ever met him.

Oh my God. Did you see who caught that ball?

He wasn't supposed to be on any football field, no less Middletown's plush new surface being christened for the storied rivalry game against Port Jervis. A month ago, Frankie Molina's mother, Gloria, was killed in her home, her ex-boyfriend charged in the stabbing.

Frankie was going to quit football. Couldn't do it. Not now. But his family talked him into staying on the team. They told him how proud mom was of him. They told him how much she'd want him on that football field. And so he kept going, kept running patterns and catching balls from old buddy Jon Villafane, the Middies quarterback.

"I told him I'm going to get the ball to him as much as I could,'' Villafane said. "I've been working with him since we were little kids. I knew when I threw it up, he was going to get it.''

The team helped hold Molina together. They attended his mom's funeral in their jersey tops. They held him. They told him they loved him.

And on Saturday night before an electric crowd of more than 4,000, Frankie Molina returned the favor. His interception gave Middletown the ball at Port Jervis' 46, and six plays later Molina was running down the right sideline, Middletown side, a defender on his hip.

He caught the ball at the goal line. He went into the end zone and looked up at the sky. Molina pointed upward, pointed to mom. "Before I even caught the ball,'' he said later, "I was thinking of mom. I looked up at the sky. I looked right at her. And she looked at me. I love her.''

The final second ticked off and Middletown celebrated its 7-3 win. The Middies jumped up and down on the sideline. They hugged. They cried. And then they sprinted toward the far goal line where a shiny trophy sat peacefully. The Erie Bell was theirs.

Molina was one of the first players to touch the hardware. He and teammates raced back to midfield to shake hands with Port Jervis. Then Molina was needed for a TV interview. He had dreamed of this moment, too, when he'd be the one talking to the press and being written up.

Molina hugged his coach, Steve Barone, hugged Middletown athletic director David Coates.

"The kid has gone through so much,'' Coates said. "I couldn't be prouder of him.''

Molina finished another interview on the field and suddenly his teammates appeared as one. They lifted him up and carried him off the field. "Frankie ... Frankie ...'' they chanted.

Frankie Molina held onto his wonderful smile of teenage innocence. This was his night. This was for mom.

kgleason@th-record.com

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