Pottsgrove’s DeFrancesco not letting cancer diagnosis ruin his season

At 17, Pottsgrove’s Chris DeFrancesco is set to face more than most of us will in our lifetime.

His hard-nosed demeanor on the gridiron, however, probably won’t reveal just what’s going on with the Falcons senior tight end and defensive end.

Two weeks have gone by since DeFrancesco was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Pottsgrove's Chris DeFrancesco looks to make a tackle in the team's opener against Ben Franklin. (Sam Stewart - The Mercury)
Pottsgrove’s Chris DeFrancesco looks to make a tackle in the team’s opener against Ben Franklin. (Sam Stewart – The Mercury)

Two weeks fans have seen DeFrancesco on the field, playing a game that has become his solace.

He’s never missed a beat, or a snap.

Now, with the support of family, friends and coaches, he’s ready to tackle a new opponent like he does all the rest — head on.

“I was pretty upset when I found out,” DeFrancesco said. “I found out after practice on Wednesday and I went to coach (Head coach Rick Pennypacker) right away. My mom had already told him and coach talked me through it and everything, told me that I was going to be OK.

“What’s really getting me through it is the support I’ve had from my friends and family. Coach Pennypacker told me I was going to be OK. I’m not really worried about it because I know I’ll be fine and I have a great support system.”

In the face of adversity, one that would likely hinder even the strongest of individuals, the 5-9, 215-pound teenager has been as tough as his muscular frame. Every bit of it, especially after finding out his diagnosis.

“I originally found a lump on my right testicle,” he said. I didn’t say anything because I thought it would go away. I wasn’t thinking. I finally said something after it stayed there for a while. I got it checked out by a doctor and got an ultrasound.

Apparently it came back I had two tumors in my right testicle.”

Did he sit out? Nope.

Two days after his diagnosis, he came out with a safety and a half sack while helping his team overcome Methacton. Last week’s win over Boyertown saw him even more banged up battling a lower body injury throughout the team’s 28-27 victory.

That tough-as-nails demeanor will carry him through, especially with the unknown clouts that his prognosis and treatment may have in store for him as he won’t know what type or the severity of his cancer until he undergoes surgery Wednesday.

“I hate to see one of my kids go through this,” Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker said “There’s been a lot of tears with my coaches, him and our players, but he doesn’t want that. We’re strong for him. He makes me strong. DSC_0887

“I think of all the problems I have, ‘Oh, I don’t want to wake up to go to work’ and then I see this 17-year-old kid who’s going through all of this and my problems aren’t what they are compared to him.”

And through it all, surgery, not the cancer itself, will keep him out the Falcons’ two remaining regular season games against Owen J. Roberts and Pottstown.

That is all the sitting out DeFrancesco is willing to allow, however. He plans on making his return if the Falcons make the District 1-AAA playoffs.

“He’s a tough hombre, whether on football field, wrestling mat or the weight room,” Pennypacker said. “He’s a tough kid. There’s a lot of kids that I’ve coached over the years that could handle this, and he’s one of them. He’s just the kind of kid that this doesn’t affect him.

“To us, and our program, football right now is secondary for this kid. We’re very worried about him, but knowing him and the way he is, all he’s cared about is getting better in two weeks and coming back to this team.”

Really, is there any surprise to that?

“I love football,” DeFrancesco said. “It helps get my mind off the topic in general. Even with this, my mind is going to be completely on football. It’s keeping me going, keeping me not to think about it.”

Why should it be any different?

Quarterbacks Dueling
Perkiomen Valley’s Stephen Sturm and Spring-Ford’s Ricky Venuto have been battling out for the No. 1 position in the area. After Venuto’s interception-less streak snapped in a 34-0 win over Pottstown, it’s Sturm who regains the top spot. Sturm and Venuto will match up in their long-awaited duel Friday November 6, with both team’s needing to win Friday to set up a clash for the PAC-10 title.

Record Setting Night
Boyertown’s Lawrence Garnett broke a school record as he threw for four touchdown passes in the Bears’ loss to Pottsgrove Friday. Sophomore wide receiver Jerry Kapp tied a school record as he hauled in three of the TD passes.

District 1 Race
Spring-Ford jumped up to No. 5 in the latest District 1-AAAA Power Rankings with Perkiomen Valley dropping to No. 7 after their win over Phoenixville. Downingtown East and Downingtown West (8-0) hold firm at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. … Pottstown holds at No. 3 in the District 1-AAA rankings with Pottsgrove climbing up to No. 7. Academy Park remains No. 1 in the Class AAA rankings.

Diamond in the Rough
It hasn’t been a great season for Pope John Paul II but Jared Johns-Lupold is having himself a fine year, hauling in another 10 catches in the team’s loss to Upper Perkiomen. Johns-Lupold remains No. 2 in the area with 34 receptions for 530 yards and five touchdowns.

Upper Perkiomen also got a solid performance from Zeke Hallman, who tied a season-high with three touchdown passes in the Indians’ Homecoming win.

No Stopping the Wildcats
OJR has climbed up the PAC after winning three of its last four games. … The team forced five interceptions in a win over Methacton Friday with Dawson Stuart picking up two of them. The Wildcats, No. 29 in the district rankings, face Pottsgrove Friday night.

Breaking 1,000
Conrad Weiser’s Koran Jordan became the first Berks player to rush for more than 1,000 yards, rushing for 213 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries in the Scouts’ 47-0 victory over Gettysburg, giving him a total of 1,096 yards for the season.

Highlight Performance
Apollo Ridge High School’s (District 7) Duane Brown rushed for 460 yards and eight touchdowns on 47 carries in a 56-35 victory over Deer Lakes Friday.

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