Westmoreland County football notes: Injured RB Caleb Lisbon inspires Penn-Trafford
Thursday, November 7, 2019 | 7:33 PM
He may be injured, but Caleb Lisbon still is very much a part of the Penn-Trafford football team.
The Division I-caliber running back and safety suffered a serious knee injury in Week 3 against McKeesport and has not returned to game action. He had surgery last week.
But since the season-ending setback, Lisbon has been to almost every practice and game, ready to observe, listen and reciprocate.
“As tough as it has been on him, Caleb continues to be here daily and be a leader and inspiration to the team,” Warriors coach John Ruane said. Earlier in the season, Lisbon could be seen driving a golf cart with another then-injured teammate, senior running back/linebacker Sam Fanelli, in the passenger’s seat. Their crutches were propped up on the back where golf bags usually go.
This was a twosome that used to get the Warriors plenty of yards.
Lisbon has helped to guide and support Fanelli through a tough process. Fanelli, who went down with a less-critical knee injury in the same game as Lisbon, returned last week in a 48-7 first-round victory over Fox Chapel.
“Knowing that Sam Fanelli needed rehab to get back, Caleb went with him and our tremendous training staff daily to motivate him through drills and to see what he was favoring, and pretty much to help Sam push himself,” Ruane said. “The two of them are great together. Sam recovered quickly. Caleb has helped him and all the running backs and safeties with things he sees — and expectations.”
Lisbon was one of the top rushers in the WPIAL before the injury. He was averaging 11.7 yards a carry (421 yards on 36 attempts and five touchdowns).
He rushed for 1,329 yards and scored 19 touchdowns last season. Navy, Fordham, Albany and Delaware are among his offers, and most schools appear to be honoring their propositions — all things considered.
Four Westmoreland County teams remain in the WPIAL and District 6 playoffs, and all four will get a rematch in the next round with teams they have gone against in recent postseasons.
Derry (9-2) will face Central Valley (10-1) on Friday for the third time in four years in the playoffs. The Trojans won the last two meetings, both at home, 33-20 in the 2016 first round and 46-0 in last year’s quarterfinals. This year’s game will be a WPIAL 3A semifinal at North Allegheny.
Belle Vernon (9-1), meantime, will take on South Fayette (10-1) in the WPIAL 4A semifinals Friday night. South Fayette knocked the Leopards out in last year’s semis 28-10 at Ringgold. This year’s game will be played at Peters Township.
Penn-Trafford (10-1) plays Upper St. Clair (7-4) on Friday at West Mifflin in the WPIAL 5A quarterfinals. The Warriors beat USC two years ago in the semifinals at the same site 35-14. And Ligonier Valley (11-0) will see Bellwood-Antis (11-0) for the second consecutive time in the District 6 2A semifinals. The teams play Saturday night at Ligonier Valley’s Weller Field.
Last year, Ligonier Valley handled the Blue Devils, 34-7, to reach the title game against Richland, which could be awaiting the winner again.
Miller time again?
Ligonier Valley standout running back Kyrie Miller did not play last week against West Shamokin in the District 6 quarterfinals with an ankle injury. But Miller is “on track” to play Saturday night against Bellwood-Antis.
“He is running at full speed, but I am keeping him out of practice for as long as I can,” Rams coach Roger Beitel said. “I expect him to be a full participant Thursday and Friday.”
Beitel said Miller, the school’s all-time leading rusher, is expected to start, and his workload will be “determined by the flow of the game.”
Miller has rushed for 1,651 yards and 30 touchdowns this season.
Ruokonen back to form
Belle Vernon got one of its top pass-catching threats back from injury in Week 7, and Hunter Ruokonen is making an impact again.
Ruokonen missed four games with a dislocated elbow.
In six games, Ruokonen has 19 catches for 292 yards and seven touchdowns. He caught two scoring throws from Jared Hartman in last week’s 49-6 win over New Castle in the WPIAL 4A quarterfinals.
Yough junior receiver C.J. Waldier ended up leading the WPIAL in receptions this season with 72 — amassing 955 yards and five touchdowns.
Oddly though, Waldier did not make first- or second-team receiver in the Class 3A Big East Conference. He was a second-team pick as a kick returner.
He also led the Cougars with 86 tackles.
“I don’t agree with not being a first- or second-team wide receiver or defensive back,” Yough coach Scott Wood said. “He was 45 yards short of 1,000.”
Hempfield senior two-way lineman Cole Graham (6-6, 270), who helped to block for big-play running back Nathan Roby, picked up an offer from Division II Clarion.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .