Last Updated: Wed Nov 08, 2023 - 3:52PM
Before Ligonier Valley returned to the WPIAL, the Rams football team enjoyed a run of dominance in District 6 for nearly a decade. During that stretch, Ligonier Valley captured multiple titles, and also produced numerous college prospects. Among the most accomplished players was Christian Jablonski, who is now a starting offensive lineman at Lehigh University. Jablonski is in the spotlight for this edition of the Westmoreland Alum Q&A.
Jablonski was a freshman for Ligonier Valley during the 2016 campaign, playing sparingly as a wide receiver and safety. That year, the Rams went 14-1, including 9-0 in the District 6 Heritage Conference. In the playoffs, the Rams bested Cambria Heights and Westmont Hilltop to reach the District 6 Championship. Against Bishop McCort, Ligonier Valley overmatched the Crimson Crushers, prevailing 35-7. In the PIAA bracket, the Rams defeated Dunmore, but lost to powerhouse Southern Columbia in the state semifinals.
The next year, Jablonski shifted to tight end and defensive end, and he made a significant impact, especially on the defensive side, as he amassed 16 tackles, two sacks, and a pair of forced fumbles. The Rams enjoyed another banner season, posting a mark of 13-1, including 9-0 in the conference. In the D6 postseason, the Rams defeated West Shamokin and Cambria Heights to return to the district title contest. Once again, LV bested Bishop McCort, this time by a 19-12 margin, to repeat as District 6 champs. In the state postseason, though, the Rams were bounced by Dunmore in the quarterfinals.
In Jablonski’s junior season, he moved to offensive tackle, while still remaining a force on the defensive line. He compiled 55 tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. Collectively, the Rams went 11-1, including 8-0 in the Heritage Conference. In the playoffs, the Rams bested Marion Center and Bellwood-Antis, once again reaching the District 6 championship game. This time, LV fell short against Richland to conclude the year.
As a senior, Jablonski registered 43 tackles, three sacks, and two fumble recoveries, earning First-Team All-Conference accolades. Ligonier Valley compiled a mark of 12-1 overall, including an unblemished mark of 9-0 in the conference. In the district postseason, LV defeated West Shamokin and Bellwood-Antis, again punching its ticket to the District 6 championship. On that stage, though, Richland again denied Ligonier Valley gold in the battle of the Rams.
Jablonski, who also earned three letters in track and field at Ligonier Valley, matriculated to Lehigh University to continue on the gridiron in 2020. However, COVID prompted the Mountain Hawks to shift their season to the spring. Starting all three games on the defensive line, Jablonski recorded two tackles and a pass defensed. Lehigh went 0-3 during the abbreviated campaign.
With Lehigh back to the traditional fall schedule for the next school year, Jablonski played in five contests, including three starts, notching five tackles and a fumble recovery. An injury sidelined Jablonski for the rest of the season, however. The Mountain Hawks posted a record of 3-8 overall, including 3-3 in the Patriot League.
Last season, Jablonski shifted from the defensive line to the offensive line, and started all 11 contests, primarily at right tackle. Lehigh amassed a mark of 2-9, including 2-4 in the conference.
Now a senior, Jablonski has remained a steady presence in the starting lineup on the offensive line, playing in eight contests. To this point, Lehigh has gone 2-7, including 1-3 in Patriot League play.
Christian dedicated time from his schedule to answer questions about his position change at Lehigh, his thoughts on Ligonier Valley’s move to the WPIAL, and with which legendary Steeler he’d like to play.
Q: How have you evaluated your performance thus far this season?
A: I would grade my performance as a little above average. I feel that I have made solid growth in my performance in my run and pass blocking, but I still feel that there is a lot of room for improvement. I always think of the plays where I did not completely execute my assignment and how I can improve in those areas. As well, we have not had as much success as we have hoped for in the beginning aspects of the season, and I always place the success of the team over any individual success I may have.
Q: You shifted from defensive line to offensive line midway through your career at Lehigh. What were the biggest adjustments to that switch?
A: Something that I did not realize when I switched from defensive to offensive line was the amount of synchronization that takes place on the O-line. Every play, you need all five members of the O-line to be in sync, as if one player messes up, it could disrupt the success of the entire play. For example, on every play, you need to identify the players on the defense who you will key, and the combinations you will need to execute together. When the switch initially happened, I figured you would just block the man in front of you, while in reality, there are many nuances on the offensive line that have to be completed for the play to be successful.
Q: What team and individual goals did you establish for this season?
A: Going into the season, the goals we had as a team were to continuously improve every week and help change the culture of Lehigh football. It was emphasized that we would not find success overnight, and instead, we had to stay committed to the process. We have hit learning curves along the way, but we can see continuous improvements as the season goes on. And my individual goals were to help the overall success of the team anyway I could, as nothing matters more to me than seeing my team succeed.
Q: What were the biggest obstacles to starting your college career during the height of COVID?
A: I believe the biggest obstacle was that we weren't able to hang out with each other, which made it hard to build camaraderie as a team. Football is a sport where you have to be able to trust everyone who is to your left and right out on the field. A great way to help build trust is just being able to spend more time with your teammates, whether it is playing video games, getting food, and just getting a better understanding of each other. I believe coming in as a freshman to people who I hadn't really met added some obstacles to this.
Q: What has been your favorite moment in your college career to this point?
A: My favorite memory so far at Lehigh would just be the time I spent with my teammates. I couldn't imagine my college career without them, and I wouldn't change the experiences that I have had with them for the world. From shoveling the snow off our practice field with our feet, waking up at 5 a.m. for workouts in the cold, and the other little memories in between, they have made everything worth it.
Q: What led to your decision to attend Lehigh?
A: I felt that Lehigh would give me opportunities that would be valuable for the rest of my life. From its academic reputation and strong alumni network, I felt confident in how Lehigh could help set me up for the rest of my life.
Q: What is your major, and ideal future profession?
A: My major is supply chain management, and I am still unsure of what my ideal future profession would be.
Q: What has been your most enjoyable college course?
A: My most enjoyable course would be an intro to acting class a few of my teammates and I took my sophomore year. We had to file a petition to take the course for some of our non-business school credits, and I am glad we were able to take it. The class was nowhere near as stressful as most of the classes that I take at Lehigh, and it was funny watching my friends try to bring out their acting side.
Q: Ligonier Valley competed in District 6 during your time there, but moved to the WPIAL after your graduation. What was your reaction to that change?
A: I'll be honest, I was a little jealous when I found out about it. Growing up, all of my cousins played for WPIAL schools, and I always thought it would've been fun to be able to compete in the same conference they were in. As well, I felt that it would've been a great and unforgettable experience to play for the district championship at Heinz Field.
Q: What was your fondest high school memory?
A: My fondest high school memory is all the games and championships that we were able to win together. We had a very tight team in high school, as almost all of us played a bunch of sports together growing up. Nobody can take away the success we had as a team, as well as all the work we put in together to help win all of those games.
Q: If you could play with or against any football player, past or present, who would you choose? Why?
A: I would choose Mean Joe Greene. Growing up, my parents would always tell me stories about the 70's Steelers and they almost always talk about him. I would love to have someone like that on my team, even though it would probably be miserable trying to block him in practice.
Q: Do you have any superstitions or rituals before, during, or after a game?
A: I had a bunch of superstitions in high school, as I would always have to wear my "Don't Mess with Texas" undershirt, as well as always get dressed the same way. But as I went to college, I got away from those superstitions and I don't really have any anymore.
Q: To which TV show or movie can you recite nearly every line?
A: I would say I can come close to reciting the entire halftime speech in the Friday Night Lights movie.
Q: What is your favorite vacation spot, or a place you've always wanted to go?
A: I would love to go to Ireland someday. I have some Irish heritage, and I think that it would be a great country to explore and play some golf.