WPIAL football position-by-position breakdown: Scouting the running backs
By: Chris Harlan
Tuesday, August 13, 2019 | 5:24 PM
High school football has become a pass-oriented game, but that doesn’t mean teams across Western Pennsylvania have abandoned running the football.
Eight of the 12 teams that reached WPIAL championships last year had at least one 1,000-yard rusher. Three of the finalists — Rochester, Steel Valley and Derry — had two 1,000-yard rushers on their rosters.
Even teams with great passing attacks understand it’s hard to win in November without that balance.
Overall, more than three dozen WPIAL rushers topped 1,000 yards last season, and two cracked the 2,000-yard mark: Steel Valley’s Kam Williams (2,020) and Rochester’s Noah Whiteleather (2,002). A dozen workhorse rushers topped 200 carries last season, including a WPIAL-high 279 by Whiteleather.
However, Williams and Whiteleather graduated, along with the next 11 names on the 2018 WPIAL yardage leaders list. That leaves the race for the rushing title wide open.
The leading rushers who return are West Greene’s Ben Jackson (1,541 yards), Pine-Richland’s Luke Meckler (1,492) and Penn-Trafford’s Caleb Lisbon (1,329).
1. Derrick Davis
Junior, 6-1, 185
Davis perhaps is known more as one of the WPIAL’s top linebackers, but Gateway’s offense will put the ball in his hands often. The first-team all-conference running back rushed for 1,229 yards and 20 touchdowns on 141 carries a year ago and also caught 26 passes for another 409 yards and six scores. His scholarship offers include Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia, along with Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas A&M and Michigan, among others. He had 57 tackles, four sacks and three interceptions, but colleges haven’t ruled out playing him on offense.
2. Caleb Lisbon
Senior, 5-11, 205
Lisbon, a two-way standout as a safety, lists college offers from Albany, Delaware, Fordham and Navy. He rushed for 1,329 yards on 157 carries and scored 20 touchdowns last season. He showed his big-play ability in the playoffs with a three-touchdown game against Peters Township. He had 248 yards on 19 touches that week and reached the end zone on plays of 58, 63 and 64 yards.
3. Angelo Priore
Senior, 5-11, 220
Priore entered last fall with a quad injury that hampered his junior season and cost him games, but the strong runner is fully healthy. He rushed for 625 yards on 111 carries a year ago and scored four times. He showed his breakaway speed with touchdown runs that covered 47, 55, 57 and 76 yards. If Baldwin has a resurgent season, Priore will play a key role.
4. Luke Meckler
Senior, 5-9, 160
Meckler topped the 200-yard rushing mark in three games last season, including a 22-carry, 263-yard, four-touchdown effort against Central Catholic with runs of 82 and 81 yards. He finished the season with 1,492 yards on 183 carries and scored 21 touchdowns. Mecker is a three-year starter at safety. He lists college offers from Kent State and Dartmouth.
5. Dylan Asbury
Senior, 6-0, 200
From Brian Davis to Shai McKenzie, Washington has a solid running back tradition. Asbury is the latest standout runner for the Little Prexies. He ran for 890 yards on 74 carries last season, an average of 12 yards per carry, despite missing a couple of weeks. He scored 18 touchdowns and twice had four in a game.
ONE TO WATCH
Junior, 5-8, 165
Tillman played only six games last season as a sophomore, but he showed his explosiveness whenever he found the field. In limited action, he rushed for 826 yards on 125 carries and scored nine touchdowns. In a matchup with Norwin, Tillman amassed 384 total yards on 31 touches and scored four times. His longest were touchdown runs of 70 and 85 yards.
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .