During his four years as a starter on the Chestnut Ridge High School football team, Duane Knisely made a habit of being among the first players to enter the weight room each morning.

The senior two-way lineman typically is among the last to leave the locker room after practices.

On the field, the 6-foot, 236-pound offensive guard/defensive end displays the results of that blue-collar regimen each week in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference.

“He’s a man-child,” Chestnut Ridge coach Max Shoemaker said moments after the Lions defense stepped up in a 20-19 victory over rival Bedford in a meeting of undefeated teams last Friday at Dr. Giovacchini Stadium.

“When we needed a big play he seemed to always step up and come through for us,” Shoemaker said of Knisely, who had 11 tackles against the Bisons, his fourth game with double-digit stops. 

“He’s been doing that all year for us. He’s one of the hardest-working kids I’ve been around.”

Business as usual, according to Knisely, who also is a state qualifier in wrestling as well as a two-time District 5 champion and state placewinner throwing the discus and shot put in track and field.

“Just doing our job,” Knisely said after the win over Bedford. 

“We made sure we didn’t go for any big TV plays. We made sure we did our job. We focused on this week and knew if we would do our job, we would be good.”

Good? The Lions (7-0) are ranked fifth in Class AA in the PennLive.com poll entering this week’s LHAC game against Bishop McCort Catholic (4-3) at Sargent’s Stadium. Area teams Ligonier Valley (third) and Richland (fourth) are ranked higher, and Meyersdale is a team to watch in Class AA.

“Duane’s a leader,” Shoemaker said. “Not only on the field leadership, but also his dedication to our strength program through the years. He’s just at an incredible strength level through hard work and dedication. It’s an unheralded role but kids look up to him because of his dedication and commitment. Others try to follow in his footsteps.”

Shoemaker said Knisely benched 325 three times, squatted 485 pounds three times and hit 260 pounds on three power cleans during the team’s August three-rep tracking session.

“He comes in at 6:30 every morning and works out. In addition to that he often comes in early and runs before he lifts,” Shoemaker said of Knisely, who has 61 tackles and two sacks. 

“He’s committed the same way in his throwing technique in track and field. He’s a workaholic. When he is committed to something, he is all in.”

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

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