By Matt Popchock
It’s time for “Mr. High School Sports” to pick his brightest stars of the gridiron from Week 2 of the WPIAL football season!
One of the running backs mentioned should ring a bell, and he’s proven so far that his team deserves the attention it received leading up to this season. Meanwhile, it was a big night for players from Beaver County, and an even bigger night for western PA history.
Here is our best of the best, plus an update on Hopewell senior tailback Rushel Shell’s pursuit of a place in the record book:
CLASS AAAA ATHLETE OF THE WEEK:
Ryan Mincher, Shaler: The Titans were a patchwork bunch who got pushed up, down, and around the field by Upper St. Clair in Week 1, but in their second non-conference game, Shaler’s senior quarterback showed he and his now-healthier teammates are not to be written off yet. In a decisive 34-13 victory over visiting Hempfield, Mincher led all WPIAL QB’s in Week 2 with 294 yards in the air and four touchdowns on 14-of-18 passing. He had missed much of Shaler’s forgettable opener due to injury.
Manny Simpson, Penn-Trafford: As if his heroics in Week 1–which we mentioned at the time–weren’t noteworthy enough, the senior tailback and the rest of the Warriors sent a resounding message in Week 2 about their stead in Class AAAA. In Mount Lebanon, Simpson put the tough Blue Devils defense through the paces, carrying the mail 32 times for 292 yards, leading all WPIAL rushers Friday night, and four touchdowns to break open an impressive 34-17 non-conference win.
CLASS AAA ATHLETE OF THE WEEK:
Rushel Shell, Hopewell: There were a lot of great individual efforts by running backs in the WPIAL this past Friday, but it’s just too obvious not to give this distinction to one of the top seniors in the Commonwealth, who added another chapter to his storied legacy in Week 2. With his 233 yards on 38 carries (his most since the ’09 WPIAL Final) to go with two TD’s, including his game-winner from 35 yards out, he joined Mike Vernillo of Fort Cherry as just the second 7,000-yard rusher in WPIAL history and 11th in PIAA history in the Vikings’ 22-19 upset of visiting Parkway Conference champion Montour.
Hopewell senior tailback Rushel Shell is on pace to set the WPIAL career rushing yardage record. Here’s the latest:
Last Friday: 38 carries, 233 yards (2 TD) in 22-19 win vs. Montour
This Friday: at Moon, 7:30 PM
Updated all-time WPIAL rushing list (senior season in parentheses):
1. Mike Vernillo, Fort Cherry (’99): 7,646 yds
2. Rushel Shell, Hopewell (’11): 7,146 yds
Updated all-time PIAA rushing list:
7. Curtis Brinkley, West Catholic (’03): 7,413 yds
8. Henry Hynoski, Southern Columbia (’06): 7,165 yds
9. Rushel Shell, Hopewell (’11): 7,146 yds
10. Jon Veach, Mount Carmel (’00): 7,103 yds
11. Jerry Marks, Southern Columbia (’87): 7,075 yds
Aaron Law, Central Valley: Elsewhere in the Parkway Conference, a battle of the previous two WPIAL Class AAA champions came down to a game-winning 47-yard touchdown run by this senior tailback with just under five minutes left in regulation. Law ended his night with 110 yards rushing on 11 attempts, while also collecting four total tackles from his spot in the defensive backfield, and catching two passes for 19 yards in the defending champions’ 13-9 triumph over the visiting Indians.
CLASS AA ATHLETE OF THE WEEK:
Mikal Hall, Aliquippa: The senior quarterback certainly rained on Joe Namath’s parade; specifically, he rained scoring bombs upon the MAC arch-rivals en route to a surprisingly easy victory. Then again, maybe it’s not so surprising, considering Aliquippa has now beaten Beaver Falls five times in a row, but anyway, Hall connected on ten of 19 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns to Kaylan Kenney totaling 117 yards, not to mention a two-point conversion, to lead the Quips to a 27-0 beatdown of the Tigers at the re-dedicated Reeves Stadium.
Dale Klobichur, Keystone Oaks: He’s not one of the biggest names in the WPIAL, but with more performances like the one he put on in Week 2, he’ll be one. The junior tailback finished third among District 7 rushers last Friday with 256 yards on 21 totes, and ran to paydirt five times to lift the Golden Eagles to a wild 52-28 non-conference win at Burrell. Three of those fives scores came in the second half, including runs of 63 and 53 yards.
CLASS A ATHLETE OF THE WEEK:
Tyler Boyd, Clairton: Collectively, the star of their Week 2 game was probably the Bears’ defense, which held Western Beaver to minus-1 net yards of total offense, and posted its 27th shutout in its last 50 outings, but the 48-0 non-conference shellacking of the Golden Beavers would not have been possible without the efforts of their junior tailback. Boyd racked up 202 yards on just 13 carries, scoring on runs of 28, 24, and 53 yards to help Clairton extend its winning streak to 33 games.
Josh Beverly, Sto-Rox: The Vikings toyed with the Cougars early in last Friday’s non-conference contest, but this senior tailback helped them literally run away with this one in the second half. Beverly tallied an even 200 yards on 19 carries, including two short touchdown runs and a 57-yard score to open the festivities in a 40-6 romp over host Carlynton.
CITY LEAGUE ATHLETE OF THE WEEK:
Rodney Gaskins, Perry: The senior tailback scored on touchdown runs of 9, 2, and 35 yards to help the Commodores earn their first win of 2011 in their League opener against Carrick at Cupples Stadium on the South Side Friday. The three scores were among 45 unanswered points Perry racked up in its 45-7 blowout.
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)