HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP, Pa. – Despite all of his individual success rushing the football, Hopewell junior phenom running back Rushel Shell knows what aids him.
“I’d be nothing without my offensive line,” Shell said. “Without them, I wouldn’t get even five yards per game.”
Central Valley only wishes Shell would average five yards per game.
Shell ran for 302 of the Vikings’ 371 yards as Hopewell (3-4) kept its WPIAL playoff hopes alive with a thrilling 26-22 victory over Central Valley (4-3) Friday night at Tony Dorsett Stadium on the Hopewell High School campus.
Each and every week is a must-win for the Vikings, who would more than likely be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss. That means each game from here on in is like a playoff game for the Vikes, and the more than 5,000 people in attendance really helped add spark to the playoff atmosphere.
“It’s not pressure,” Shell said of the need to win each week. “It’s motivation.”
Hopewell showed that motivation right from the onset, as Shell burst through the Warrior defense practically untouched for a 92-yard scoring run with 4:53 left in the opening stanza. At that point, Shell had run for 104 yards. And he was just getting started.
Hopewell finished the first half with 191 yards rushing and only attempted two passes, both incompletions. Shell had 150 yards at halftime, but the Vikings held only a 6-0 lead in what was turning into a defensive struggle.
Central Valley, meanwhile, ran about as many formations in the first half as it gained offensive yards. The Warriors ran plays from the shotgun, I, Delaware Wing-T and straight T sets, but managed only 64 first half yards and a quartet of first downs. But during halftime, someone must have lit a fire under the Warriors’ big three of Lukas Turley, Aaron Law and quarterback Curtis Lewis.
Employing a mostly Delaware Wing-T offense in the second half, Lewis, Turley and Law ground the Warriors to a 7-6 lead on a 10-play, 5:18 drive. Exclusively keeping the drive on the ground, the CV drive was greatly aided by a Viking unsportsmanlike conduct penalty early on in the drive. Law gave CV a 13-12 lead on a 1-yard run with 11:56 left in the game and Turley capped the blue and white’s scoring with a 4-yard run with 4:43 left.
But for each Central Valley touchdown, Hopewell had an answer. Dual-threat quarterback Nolan Harmatto (24 rush yards, 23 pass yards; rush TD) scored from a yard out to make it 12-7 in the third quarter. Harmatto’s run capped a 5:50 drive that featured 11 plays – 10 of which were runs.
Shell set up his second touchdown of the game (a 4-yard run with 7:54 left in the game) with a 38-yard run out of a keeper from the Vikings’ single-wing offensive package. Most of Shell’s runs in the single-wing sets went to the left side of the line. That wasn’t by accident.
“We like to (run it left),” said Hopewell head coach Dave Vestal. “The left side of our line is our strong side.”
Central Valley found that out repeatedly in the second half. And on Hopewell’s deciding touchdown drive – a 7-play, 63-yard march – Shell registered six carries and had runs of 20, 13, and 11 yards to set up his 6-yard scoring run, his third touchdown of the night.
“He can really take a game over,” Vestal said of Shell, who finished with 35 carries for 302 yards. Shell now has run for 1,705 yards and 14 touchdowns on the year.
FB Zach Roman ran for 35 yards on six carries, opening the game with two rushes for 23 yards. Hopewell ran for 371 yards on 52 carries and finished with 15 first downs.
Central Valley finished with 189 yards of offense – 168 of which came on the ground. Lewis ran for 63 yards on 15 totes; Turley had 61 yards on 13 carries; and Law finished with 40 yards on 10 carries. But CV completed just three passes in 15 attempts between Lewis and Matt Bradford.