Donegal has quietly put together a strong start to the 2018 campaign with a 4-2 overall record through six weeks of high school football action. The Indians (4-2, 4-1 league) currently sit in a three-way tie for second place in the Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Three standings alongside Annville-Cleona (4-2, 4-1) and Elco (5-1, 4-1). Those three sit just a game back of first-place Lancaster Catholic (6-0, 5-0).
With four games remaining in the regular season, Donegal controls its own destiny with clashes coming up against A-C, Elco and Lancaster Catholic.
The Indians have gotten to this point under the guidance first-year head coach Chad Risberg, who opted to keep Donegal’s Wing-T attack on offense, with the decision having thus far resulted in the Indians churning out 1,607 rushing yards, the fourth-highest total among all L-L teams.
Among those leading charge has been 5-foot-7, 155-pound senior running back Zion Gibbs. Two weeks ago, Gibbs put up a career-high 161 rushing yards on 13 carries with one TD in Donegal’s narrow loss to Ephrata. He followed that up last Friday with 151 rushing yards on 16 carries and a TD in the 21-20 win at Octorara.
Thanks to the blocking of o-linemen Connor Ruhl, Nate Stough, AJ McCarty, Cael Rapp, Owen Kling and tight end Logan Nauman, Gibbs has totaled 555 rushing yards on 66 attempts - an impressive 8.4 yards per carry average - and crossed the goalline nine times, which leads all Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Three ball carriers.
That goes along with his defensive responsibilities, where Gibbs (36 tackles, 1 caused fumble, 1 fumble recovery) has started at safety and corner so far this season.
For his efforts, Gibbs is LNP’s Week 6 Football Player of the Week.
LNP sports reporter John Walk caught up with Gibbs at Monday’s practice. And the speedy senior chatted about several interesting topics, such as what it’s been like playing for Risberg, where Donegal fits into the Section Three race, and the story behind the name he writes on his cleats before every game that gives him inspiration.
Q: With three younger sisters, how much do you assume a role of being the role model to your siblings?
A: “I help them get ready for sports and stuff, practicing with them...they all play softball and they all play soccer.”
Q: What’s the season been like being under new head coach Chad Risberg just in terms of any changes in coaching style or anything that stands out about his coaching style?
A: “He’s made it easy on us because he’s always been with us. Nothing has really changed that much besides us doing shotgun more. Pretty much we’ve stayed with the same scheme and practice that over and over again before we perfect it.”
Q: What, in particular, is it out about the offense that led to your success?
A: “I like that we have a variety of running backs that can pound the ball through the holes. Minick is more of a ground and pound guy whereas I’m more of the shifty person so it throws other defenses off balance.”
Q: What did you learn from the close loss to Ephrata in Week 5 that may have translated into the close win over Octorara in Week 6?
A: “We started off good against Ephrata. Then we lost our quarterback (Dylan Martin) and main defensive player. So we needed to learn how to overcome that adversity before the Octorara game. So we needed to help our young guys out. Our quarterback and a couple linebacker positions. In the end we all bonded together to beat Octorara.”
Q: Three huge games coming up with Elco, Annville-Cleona and Lancaster Catholic. Where does Donegal fit in this Section Three race?
A: “We’re in the mix with everybody else. We’re tied for second place but we control our own destiny. If we beat all of these teams we can be section champs.”
Q: Time for some fun questions. Zion is an uncommon first name. Where does that come from?
A: “My mom heard this song. I forgot the name of the artist, but she named me after the song.”
Q: What’s the jersey number and is there any significance behind it?
A: “I wear No. 21 because of Sean Taylor, LaDainian Tomlinson. Barry Sanders wore it in college.”
Q: Wow. Barry Sanders is an old-school name for someone your age. Are you into the throwback type of players?
A: “I research running backs. I came across Barry and loved the way he ran. I wanted to base my run game off of him.”
Q: Are you driving yet? And if so, what car?
A: “I am driving. It’s a 2007 Honda Civic. It’s also a stick shift.”
Q: Where do you take someone on a first date?
A: “To the movies.”
Q: Do you know what you’re wearing to homecoming yet?
A: “I ordered my shirt and I’m gonna wear suspenders...it’s like a tanish color with black.”
Q: If you could be any animal, what animal would you be and why?
A: “I would be a cheetah. They just run fast and it compares...I like to run.”
Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
A: “I would say speed. Like The Flash.”
Q: What’s your favorite class?
A: “We have a class where we go out and do life skills. Canoeing. We learn how to compass. We pick up (trash) for the borough.”
Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: “Something in criminal justice. Or crime scene investigation. I think you have to be a police officer for four years before you go into the crime scene field.”
Q: What inspires you in life?
A: “I would say my faith. And just other people...there’s a kid (11-year-old Marietta resident) Elliott Ross. He has cancer. He’s been battling it for awhile. That motivates me. I put his name on my cleats to remind me of the pain he’s going through so that I can push forward.”