By Matt Popchock
This week’s UPMC Centers for Rehab Services Athlete of the Week is Rushel Shell, a senior tailback for the Hopewell football team.
We like to consider a broad sphere of student-athletes before bestowing this honor each week, but Shell’s historic performance at Tony Dorsett Stadium last Friday made this decision an absolute no-brainer.
With 205 yards on 32 carries in a 27-20 triumph over Mount Lebanon (Class AAAA) last Friday, Shell became the all-time leading rusher in WPIAL history, ending his night with 7,718 career yards, eclipsing a record previously held by Fort Cherry’s Mike Vernillo since 1999.
Shell shrugged off a slow start with an 18-yard touchdown run to give the Vikings an early 7-0 lead, and despite the fact the Blue Devils’ stubborn defensive front had blitzed frequently and keyed on him all night, he broke a 7-7 tie with under five minutes left in the first half with a 38-yard scamper, giving Hopewell a 13-7 advantage at the break.
At 8:28 P.M. Shell darted through a hole on the right side and up the Mount Lebanon sideline, nearly going all the way. Although he didn’t reach paydirt, the 54-yard sweep was more than enough to put his name atop the WPIAL record book.
With just over three minutes left in regulation and the game tied once again, Shell capped his coronation in most appropriate fashion by converting a fourth-and-goal with a game-winning two-yard scoring run, his third TD of the night and 12th total touchdown of the year, with 11 having come via runs.
Shell is one of the top scorers in the district and leads the WPIAL with 952 rush yards entering Week 5.
Be sure to catch the next edition of “The UPMC Centers for Rehab Services High School Football Show,” brought to you by ROOT Sports and hosted by John Phillips, Saturday 7-10 A.M. on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan, when we’ll announce our next UPMC Centers for Rehab Services Athlete of the Week!
Meanwhile, here are some of Mr. High School Sports’ other top performers from Week 4 of the WPIAL/City League campaign:
Matt Loughnane, Penn-Trafford: It isn’t every week special teams plays such a crucial role in a crucial game, let alone a crucial game that turns into a signature win for a coach and his program. But with the help of their junior kicker, the Warriors nipped visiting Gateway 16-14 for their first victory over the Foothills Conference champs since 2004, and an assuredly emotional one for Penn-Trafford head coach/ex-Gateway assistant John Ruane. Loughnane’s 31-yard field goal in the second quarter gave his team a 10-0 edge, and his 32-yarder extended Penn-Trafford’s lead to 13-6 in the fourth quarter. With the Warriors trailing, he nailed another 31-yarder on the game’s final play to give him ten points on the night and give Penn-Trafford a share of first place in the conference.
Quad Law, Ringgold: The Golden Lions fought the Law, and the Law won. The senior dual-threat quarterback racked up 177 yards on 24 carries, scoring Ringgold’s first and last touchdowns last Friday, not to mention a two-point conversion late in the second half against Greensburg-Salem at Offut Field. Law found the end zone from 12 and 23 yards out, and he completed three of seven passes for a whopping 110 yards, but he wasn’t done there, either. With the Rams clinging to a 42-41 lead and only nine seconds left in the fourth quarter, Salem faked the extra point and attempted a two-point pass that Law helped break up to preserve Ringgold’s win in this pivotal Keystone Conference matchup.
Josh Wise, Washington: The Prexies made one of the most profound statements of Week 4 by slamming the door in the face of WPIAL champion South Fayette. But before Washington’s defense could hold the Lions without positive net yardage in the second half, it needed the distance on the scoreboard that Wise provided with some long-distance throws. After giving Washington an early 8-7 lead with a two-point run, Wise later gave the Prexies the lead for good with a goal-line plunge in the second quarter, then punctuated a 4-of-8, 100-yard passing performance with a 33-yard TD pass to Shai McKenzie and a 27-yard strike to Ethan Gordan to cap the 33-14 upset.
Josh Beverly, Sto-Rox – The tide may be turning in Class A, and the senior tailback warned us by helping wash away visiting Rochester in a sea of offense in a battle for Big 7 Conference supremacy. Amazingly, the two teams combined for well over 600 yards rushing, but Beverly took charge for the Vikings, leading all WPIAL Class A rushers in Week 4, and blowing away the Rams with 256 yards on a mere 13 attempts. This titanic clash began ominously with a 53-yard TD run by Beverly, the first of many big plays by both schools, and he broke loose for a 69-yard score to give Sto-Rox an 18-13 halftime lead. After Sto-Rox took a 34-27 lead in the fourth, Beverly provided insurance from 22 yards out en route to a huge 48-27 victory.
Darrelle Carson, Perry: The senior quarterback helped keep the Commodores perfect in League play with two key plays in a 14-12 victory over Oliver last Friday. Carson forged a 6-6 halftime draw with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Daron Clark, and in the third quarter, after a 14-yard TD run by Robert Willie, he hooked up with Deacon Blackwell for what proved to be a game-winning two-point conversion.
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)