By Matt Popchock
It’s been a long day for “Mr. High School Sports,” but he’s finally ready to settle in and watch some Parkway Conference football, which is always worth the wait! We’re live from Tony Dorsett Stadium on the campus of Hopewell High School as the Vikings host the defending conference champion Montour Spartans. We’ll be giving you updates all night long.
Hopewell is coming off a come-from-behind 14-7 win over Belle Vernon in non-conference play at this venue, while Montour is coming off a season-opening Class AAA non-conference victory of its own, a 49-14 stomping of the Colts at Chartiers Valley.
Hopewell senior tailback Rushel Shell, the most heavily recruited offensive player in Pennsylvania, enters tonight with 6,913 career rushing yards (147 last week). He needs 734 to break Mike Vernillo of Fort Cherry’s all-time WPIAL record, set in 1999. Shell is 11th all-time in state history in rushing yardage. He has run for nearly 800 yards and seven TD’s in three career games against the Spartans…
7:00 – Hopewell kicks off left to right on your computer screen or smartphone.
7:05 – Center and Division I prospect Dom Martinelli on his back, but appears to be okay after being stretched out. Montour moving the ball well, thanks to solid off-tackle running by MAC recruit Julian Durden.
7:06 – Hopewell catches a huge break, as OLB Adam Murray recovers a shotgun snap that sailed well over the head of Dillon Buechel deep in Hopewell territory. Scoreless game, 9:00 left, 1st quarter.
7:10 – Timeout Hopewell, two left for the Vikings. 6:47 left, 1st quarter. Shell: 3 yards on first 3 carries.
7:11 – As much attention as Shell gets, QB Nolan Harmatto is a solid athlete himself…just kept it himself for an 18-yard pickup into Montour territory on 3rd and long. A lot of great Hopewell athletes, past and present, have come from that family.
Speaking of family, just to clarify it, for those who weren’t sure, Tony Dorsett is Shell’s great-uncle.
7:13 – Another well-executed keeper by Harmatto on 3rd and long, this time for 19 yards, into the red zone.
7:17 – Nate Bowden gets just enough leg to sneak a 38-yard FG attempt inside the left upright, angled right to left! 3-0 Hopewell, 3:52 left, 1st quarter. A holding penalty stalled the Vikings, as a subsequent pass to the end zone intended for Shell, who was lined up as a split end, was broken up neatly by Rob Naylor.
7:21 – Mrkonja makes a nice open-field tackle on Durden, who tried to sweep it right, to force a Montour punt.
7:24 – The first quarter ends with a 4-yard run by Shell to convert a 3rd and short near midfield. Hopewell 3, Montour 0.
Hopewell is running the ball effectively against a team whose defensive line weighs roughly 260-270 pounds apiece, on average. Montour head coach Lou Cerro is probably telling that group to pick it up; it’s only a matter of time, if history is any guide, before the Spartans’ offense gets on track.
7:26 – The second quarter begins with Shell finally finding significant room outside and scampering for 25 yards up the near sideline.
Shell, by the way, had 21 rushing yards after one stanza.
7:28 – Wow…Shell was in the grasp…and he still broke loose and scored from 18 yards out…but it’s wiped out by a holding penalty, then a false start pushes Hopewell back further. Too bad, an exceptional play nevertheless.
7:32 – DL Chase Dwyer with a coverage sack to force a turnover on downs around the Montour 20. The Spartans’ bend-but-don’t-break defense keeps the deficit at 3-0, 9:24 left, 2nd quarter.
7:33 – DL Acantay Patton answers right back by slamming Dillon Buechel for Hopewell’s first sack of the night.
First updates of the night:
Central Catholic 14, Bethel Park 0 – end 1st qtr
Highlands 7, Derry 3 – 1st qtr
Nothing for Durden on that drive, though he did have 33 yards on five first-quarter attempts.
7:38 – Nothing doing for the Vikings…Naylor is doing a good job on Shell in single coverage…he knocked down a potential first-down pass on 3rd and 4. Got there at just the right time.
7:40 – Durden with a run reminiscent of what Willie Parker did in Super Bowl XL (same color uniforms, too)…66 yards into Hopewell real estate!
Timeout Montour, which trails, still, 3-0…4:55 left in the first half.
(Ringgold 7, Hampton 0 on a 17-yd TD run by Percy Law)
7:45 – Paydirt! Montour has our first touchdown of the night, as Buechel finds Darren Massey wide open on a slant for a 10-yard score. But Nathaniel Dearth shanks the extra point, so it remains 6-3 Spartans with 2:31 left in the 2nd quarter.
Buechel now 9 of 9 for 50 yards. Massey 4 catches for 25.
(Ringgold and Hampton now tied 7-7…South Park leading TJ 7-0 midway through the 1st quarter…)
7:51 – Shortly following a 10-yard sack by Anthony Rippole, Shell punts. He’s like LaVar Arrington, he does it all. About a 45-yarded, landing out of bounds near midfield, with 1:15 left.
7:53 – Durden knifes through the middle and gets out in the open again…this time for 48 yards, as he slams into his tackler just inside the Hopewell 5. Montour takes second timeout with 46.5 seconds left in the first half, as the North Catholic transfer continues stealing the show from Shell…
7:56 – Touchdown Montour! With 29 seconds left, Massey runs in from 5 yards out on a naked reverse on 3rd and goal. The Notre Dame fight song emanates from the Spartans’ marching band shortly before a two-point option run by Durden is denied. 12-3 Montour out in front.
Jeannette 7 Laurel 0 – end 1st
Gateway 6 Penn Hills 0 – late 1st on Patrick Livsey 1-yd run
Ford City and South Allegheny scoreless, end 1st
South Park and TJ tied 7-7 – late 1st – Presto 46 yd TD pass to Raimondi)
(More updates: Avonworth 7, Springdale 0 after 1st qtr…Greensburg-Salem up 14-7 on Connellsville after one.)
14 runs, 60 yards for Shell with seconds left in 1st half…
(Central Catholic 17, Bethel Park 0 at the half. Terry Totten, Central’s head coach, scheduled to appear on the season premiere of The UPMC High School Football Show, brought to you by ROOT Sports, with John Phillips Saturday 7-10 A.M.)
Halftime here at Hopewell…Montour leads the Vikings 12-3. More to come…
Before 1st half stats, some updates from around the WPIAL:
Pitt recruit Corey Jones with 59-yd TD catch on 1st play of 2nd quarter … Penn Hills leads Gateway 7-6
West Mifflin 20 EF 3 after 1st (158 rush yds for W. Miff.)
Beaver Falls and Aliquippa scoreless after 1st…Joe Namath in attendance at Reeves Stadium (Geneva College)
Shaler 20 Hempfield 0 after 1st
Highlands 13 Derry 12 at the half
Keystone Oaks 13 Burrell 0
Mt. Lebanon 9 Penn-Trafford 6 end of 1st qtr
Woodland Hills 14 North Hills 3 – 2nd qtr
Kittanning up on Plum 7-6 at half
TJ 14 South Park 7…early 2nd qtr…3-yd TD run by Ryan Ruffing puts Jags in front
Gateway 12 Penn Hills 7 … TE Jaymar Parrish with a quick 50-yd TD catch shortly after Gators fell behind
Seton-LaSalle 7 Shady Side Academy 0 2nd qtr
Sto-Rox 8 Carlynton 6
72-yd TD run by Ryan Ruffing…21-7 TJ over S. Park, still in 2nd
Ford City 3 S. Allegheny 0 late 1st half…25-yd FG by Andrew Huska
FIRST HALF STATS FROM OUR GAME (unofficial):
Shell – 13 rush, 58 yds
Harmatto – 4 of 13 for 36 yards before 4 sacks; 3 rush, 42 yds
Durden – 8 rush, 154 yds
Buechel – 10 of 14 for 48 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble lost, 1 sack
Massey – 4 catches for 25 yds and 1 TD…plus that 5-yd TD run
Once the Spartans found their legs, the Vikings, even Shell, seemed to lose theirs. Montour’s defense has taken charge, not really letting Shell get going just yet, and in the meantime, Hopewell is scrambling to find an answer for his counterpart, Julian Durden. The Vikings get the ball to start the second half. You know how important people say that first drive of the second half usually is? Well, cliches are cliches for a reason: they’re true. Shell and his mates need to get something going, and that offensive line needs not to get pushed around like it was as the half wound down.
8:32 – Hopewell catches a needed break, as the second-half kickoff goes out of bounds right to left on your computer screen or smartphone.
8:34 – Shell now needs 26 yards unofficially for his 31st straight 100-yard rushing game.
8:35 – Make that 9 more, unofficially. Shell looks like he’s settling into a groove. HAS JUST BECOME THE 2ND 7,000-YARD RUSHER IN WPIAL HISTORY.
8:37 – Touchdown Hopewell! Shell finishes what he started with a 4-yard TD run, his 2nd of the young season. 65 yards on that drive, all of them belonging to Shell. Nate Bowden’s extra point works, and the Vikings cut it to 12-10 Montour, 9:12 left, 3rd quarter.
8:40 – Montour catches a break of its own on a pass interference call against DB Wiley Belknap. Darren Massey down, receiving medical attention. Now getting off under own power.
Shell, by the way, now has 31 consecutive 100-yard games. He clinched it on Hopewell’s first drive of the half. National record is 38 by Billy Sims.
(Carlynton giving Sto-Rox a game, down just 14-6 at halftime…)
8:49 – Timeout Montour, first of the half. 4th and 5 from Hopewell 30, 4:55 left, 3rd quarter. If Hopewell holds here, that could be a game-changer, the way Shell’s going.
8:50 – False start on Montour…
8:51 – First down…Buechel waits, watches, then takes off up the middle for 17 yards. Huge.
Touchdown Spartans! 17-yd TD run by Julian Durden, his 5th total TD of the year…he took a pitch to the right, reversed his field, and just streaked up the middle, undaunted. Dearth’s extra point is good, running-into-the-kicker penalty by Hopewell. 19-10 Montour, 4:18 left, 3rd quarter.
Give Cerro a ton of credit–and his team, for that matter–for not giving up on that drive, and for having faith in the elite talents of his skill players.
Kickoff bounces into end zone. By high school rule, an automatic touchback.
With Haramatto coming off a bad first half, and not looking likely to throw until he has to, let’s see if Montour sells out and stacks the line in anticipation of Shell.
12 carries, 176 yards, one TD now for Durden.
8:56 – Updates: Quips lead BF 6-0 in 2nd qtr (Hall 43 yd TD pass to Kaylen Kenny)…Peters leads Laurel Highlands 20-0 2nd qtr…TJ 35 South Park 7, 2nd half…Highlands 13 Derry 12 start of 4th qtr…
Shell damn near got into open pasture before being forced out after a 17-yard gain. Part of his great skill set is his great patience. He really lets the play come to him.
9:00 – End of 3rd quarter…Montour 19, Hopewell 10. Vikings inside Spartan territory, though…and those first couple Hopewell drives during which they came away with just 3 points are really looming large right now…
9:02 – Update: Central Catholic 30 Bethel Park 7 – 3rd qtr
9:03 – Harmatto converts a very necessary 4th down with a naked bootleg.
9:05 – Hopewell still driving; 42 yards on this one belong to Shell.
9:06 – Update: Ford City 10 S. Allegheny 7 – 3rd qtr
9:07 – New look here…Shell not much yardage on back-to-back snaps where he lined up as a wildcat QB. Timeout Hopewell, two left for the Vikings…who trail 19-10, 8:06 left in the game.
9:09 – 4th and long…and Harmatto has another answer! A gutsy QB keeper for 17 yards. Both teams definitely playing to win.
9:10 – Shell shocked, pun unintended, as he gets up slowly, favoring his left leg, after getting brought down just shy of the goal line. Shell walking around on Hopewell sideline, trying to shake it off.
9:11 – Touchdown Hopewell! Harmatto right up the gut, and over the goal line. Devin Wilson cleanly blocks the extra point, despite a personal foul against Montour after the play was dead, so the Vikings are down, but by no means out. 19-16 Montour, 7:08 left, 4th quarter.
9:13 – Update: Ringgold and Hampton now tied 14-14 in AAA non-conference action.
9:15 – Dave Vestal rolls the dice again, and again, the gamble pays off, as Hopewell recovers an onside kick at the Montour 35! Nice coverage by Belknap. Predictably, Shell is back in the game.
9:17 – DL Tyler Haddock wraps up Harmatto on a QB keeper for a short loss, setting up 4th and 6. Harmatto limping off…Shell in at wildcat QB…and converts, running right up the middle. What a ballgame…
9:19 – Redemption for Dom Martinelli…refs rule Shell fumbled right before his knee touched at the end of a 4-yard run, and Martinelli recovers the fumble. That’s a buzzkill for Viking fans, to put it mildly. Montour ball, own 20.
With 3:19 left, Spartans go three and out, so Hopewell will get a second crack at this.
9:20 – More updates…
Cornell beats Bentworth 48-0
Avonworth leads Springdale 7-0 after 3rd
W. Mifflin 41 EF 3 end of 3rd
Seton-LaSalle leads Shady Side 14-0
Plum 19 Kittanning 14 late 4th qtr
9:23 – Timeout Hopewell, one remaining. 1:33 left in regulation. 4th and 4 for the Vikings on Montour 35.
(1-yd TD run by Graham Davis to give Gateway 19-13 lead, 2 min. left, 3rd qtr)
9:24 – Touchdown Hopewell! Shell does it again! 35 yards over left guard, sprints to the end zone! Wow! Extra point…is MISSED. Hopewell 22, Montour 19. 1:25 left. Half of Tony Dorsett Stadium going nuts (including some boosters here in the press box), the other half…not so much.
Figures my Internet would cut out before the end of the game…like I said at the start of the night, long day.
Anyway…Hopewell pulls off the upset 22-19!
Thanks to the fleet-footed Buechel, who strung together runs of 8 and 16, then threw a dart to Aaron Reed with 13.9 seconds left, Montour was in position to win at the Hopewell 15 with 13.9 seconds left. But Keenan Arnett picked him off in the end zone to preserve the victory.
Hopewell goes to 1-0 in conference, 2-0 overall. Montour falls to 0-1 in conference, 1-1 overall. Spartans host Ambridge next week, Vikings travel to Moon for further Parkway Conference action.
Rushel Shell is now the 9th leading rusher in PIAA history. He surpassed Jerry Marks of Southern Columbia, and Jon Veach of Mount Carmel. Next on the list is Pitt Panther-turned-New York Giant Henry Hynoski (Southern Columbia). More on that later.
Shell is the 11th in PIAA history to gain 7,000 rushing yards in a career.
More right now from head coach Dave Vestal. He’s slated to appear on 93.7 The Fan tomorrow morning during the premiere of the UPMC High School Football Show (Brought to you by ROOT Sports) with John Phillips, but here’s what he had to say for now:
Team found a way to band together in the second half, just like last week. Put some nice drives together late in the game, which showed the real identity of this team…was in nickel-2 on last drive, trying to keep QB contained, and watch over the top. Told team to “be good tacklers.” Rushel called for winning touchdown play “45 gap.” Contained Durden by not over-pursuing…”he’s a tremendous athlete.” Complimented the leadership of Nolan Harmatto. Celebrating tonight but still wary of letdowns in this conference.
Rushel Shell post-game remarks (audio to be posted later):
Wanted the ball on critical 4th down play. Gave strategic advice to legendary Beaver coach and current Hopewell assistant Pat Tarquinio. Confident in running ability of all his teammates. “Guarantees” these teams will meet again. Plan was to run off tackles, use self as decoy on multiple plays. Was a little surprised to see a hole materialize up the middle on game-winning score. Clamored on the sideline for coaches to stick with the running game. Difference between “45 gap” and “46 gap,” another scoring play used tonight, is simply running to either the left or the right. Feels great to be a 7,000-yard rusher, but wants championship more because “no one can take it from you” (whereas records can often be broken). Played with defense on final Montour series because he had an idea what they would call, based on game-winning drive last year; was watching for fade to Devin Wilson. Leg feels fine, nothing out of the ordinary for him.
Where else besides Hopewell would you see a high school player getting mobbed by pre-adolescent autograph seekers? Meanwhile, Pitt head coach Todd Graham stuck around to talk with Rushel and Coach Vestal afterward, and according to an unconfirmed report, officials from Alabama were on campus today as well…
Check out the KDKA-TV website for all of tonight’s scores…here are a few outstanding ones from Friday night…
Central Catholic 30 Bethel Park 7
Central Valley 13 West Allegheny 9
Seton-LaSalle 30 Shady Side Academy 0
Avonworth 7 Springdale 6
Chartiers Valley 37 Trinity 14
Greensburg C.C. 48 Southmoreland 21
Perry 45 Carrick 7
California 15 Carmichaels 6
New Castle 35 Ambridge 7
Gateway 19 Penn Hills 13
Rochester 34 Fort Cherry 12
Penn-Trafford 34 Mount Lebanon 17
Aliquippa 27 Beaver Falls 0
Sto-Rox 40 Carlynton 6
East Allegheny 35 Waynesburg 33
FINAL NUMBERS (unofficial):
Shell: 227 rushing yards and two TD’s on 37 carries. Unofficially, that gives him 7,140 yards rushing for his career. (Last year he had 303 yards against Montour, which was, at the time, the second-best performance of his career.)
Durden: 180 rushing yards and one TD on 23 carries.
Audio highlights and more on the aftermath of this big Parkway Conference battle to come Saturday afternoon on this blog, and Saturday morning 7-10 on The UPMC High School Football Show, brought to you by ROOT Sports!
Some recruiting notes that I didn’t get around to last night:
In addition to Pitt and Alabama, Florida is another one of the schools rumored to be on Shell’s short list. In the event he does not sign with Pitt, conventional wisdom says he’ll go SEC. However, at the rate he’s going, he could have offers from practically every relevant Division I football program in the country by the time this season is done. If I were Todd Graham, and I wanted to keep him local, I’d stick to him like glue…and keep winning ballgames. ROOT Sports coordinating producer and high school football junkie Craig McConnell, who will be a regular guest on “The UPMC High School Football Show” (Brought to You By ROOT Sports), thinks Shell will pick the Panthers. Check back with our high school site for more on that…
Speaking of players who might fit Todd Graham’s offense, Nolan Harmatto might be one. He’s getting Division I attention, and the chances are pretty good he’ll play at that level. He’s a mobile QB, and would probably be talked about more if not for the awesome shadow cast by Shell. Unlike Buechel, his accuracy left something to be desired last night, but, in his defense, Montour has an athletic secondary, and that group covered well on Friday.
Pretty much all of Montour’s starting linemen are receiving Division I attention for one position or another. Devin Wilson is also likely to play Division I football, and is being recruited, for one, by Akron, which has offered him a basketball scholarship.
Dillon Buechel does not have any formal Division I offers–something that Lou Cerro told me upsets him. Can’t say I blame him; with Christian Brumbaugh gone, Buechel is probably the best quarterback in the WPIAL, and Brumbaugh, after looking MAC, landed on his feet at William & Mary. He has received interest–but no verbal offers, last I read–from Pitt, WVU, and several ACC schools, including Maryland, which has already signed Perry Hills and Anthony Nixon of Central Catholic.
Darren Massey is receiving interest from such small schools as UMass and Ohio U., and Anthony Rippole is one of several locals who has reportedly been of interest to the Fightin’ Jim Colonys of UNH. New Hampshire, which has supposedly spent more time and effort recruiting around here than one might think, has also expressed interest in Martinelli (not to mention Nixon, Fort Cherry QB Tanner Garry, and dismissed Gateway linebacker Jaylen Coleman).
Audio highlights, courtesy of Lanny (and Bobby O):
Bowden’s field goal:
Buechel hooks up with Massey:
Massey pads the lead:
Shell makes history:
…and finishes what he starts:
Durden goes the distance:
Shell wins it…
…and Arnett clinches it:
Post-game media scrum with Rushel Shell (raw audio):
Normally I would run off at the mouth here (as if I haven’t enough already, right?), but I’ll just leave you with this:
To be the man, you have to beat the man, as the adage goes. On Friday Rushel Shell and Hopewell, with Division I college football brass looking on, beat what I believe to be the best team in the WPIAL’s best conference top to bottom, and possibly the best team state-wide in its own classification. No disrespect to a team like Thomas Jefferson, which rebounded in a big way against South Park and looks to be solid once again this year, but those of you who say Hopewell is, for at least one week, “the man” in Class AAA will get no argument from me. Having said that, Montour is still scary good. I look for the Spartans to recover easily from this setback, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Shell’s guarantee came to fruition.
Be sure to revisit the “Mr. High School Sports” blog at 937thefan.com this coming week for more Week 2 aftermath and a look ahead to Week 3 of the WPIAL season, including a preview of our next UPMC High School Football Game of the Week, in which Pitt recruit Corey Jones and Penn Hills will visit Mount Lebanon and Luke Hagy, the school’s career rushing leader, in Quad-A non-conference action!
In addition, be sure to catch the next edition of “The UPMC High School Football Show,” brought to you by ROOT Sports, next Saturday from 7 to 9 A.M., hosted by John Phillips, on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan!
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)