Hopewell star unhappy with start

Chris Harlan
| Friday, Oct. 8, 2010

Hopewell's Rushel Shell has been hurdling names on the WPIAL's all-time rushing list two at a time, moving closer to a record that seems within his reach.

But he's not having much fun.

That's because while he streaks toward the top of that rushing list, his team has been stumbling toward the bottom of the Parkway Conference standings.

Hopewell is tied for last.

"It's been frustrating," said Shell, a highly recruited running back. "Sometimes, you want to put your head down."

Never did Shell imagine he would be playing for his playoff life in Week 6 of his junior season.

A year ago, Hopewell was unbeaten in the regular season and the WPIAL runner-up in Class AAA. But one more loss almost certainly would leave the Vikings (1-4, 0-3) home come November.

"It's basically do or die," Shell said of tonight's game at New Castle.

A 6-foot, 220-pounder, Shell has rushed for 1,011 yards and eight touchdowns in 2010 — the beginning of what should be another outstanding statistical season for last year's WPIAL leading rusher. In his varsity career, Shell has 5,265 yards.

Last week, against Blackhawk, Shell rushed for 128 yards — his 23rd consecutive game with at least 100 yards. He leapt two spots on the WPIAL's all-time rushing list and moved closer to all-time rusher Mike Vernillo of Fort Cherry (7,646 yards).

"He's a scary back," said Blackhawk coach Joe Hamilton, who spoke to Shell after last Friday's game. "I told him: 'Son, you know, I didn't get any sleep this week just thinking about you running that stupid ball.' "

In the third quarter, a 4-yard run moved Shell past Duquesne High School's Todd Harris (5,224 yards) and into eighth place.

In the fourth, a 13-yard run moved Shell past Greensburg Central Catholic's Max Suter (5,252 yards) and into seventh place.

Still, Hopewell lost, 31-14.

"As of right now, all the record stuff isn't a big deal to me," Shell said, "because we're losing."

With only two starters back from 2009, Shell knew this wouldn't be a continuation of last season, when he rushed for a WPIAL-best 2,740 yards, and his team sprinted unblemished into Heinz Field.

"I knew coming into the season it wasn't going to be another perfect season like last year," Shell said. "We weren't just going to come in and dominate everyone."

But he expected better than 0-3 at this point in conference play.

With a young offense around Shell, opposing defenses have placed even more focus on him. Shell said one or two defenders shadow him every play.

Still, he has scored 11 times.

To reach the WPIAL playoffs, Hopewell likely will need to defeat its final four Parkway opponents: New Castle (1-2), Central Valley (2-1), Ambridge (0-3) and West Allegheny (3-0).

Shell believes that's possible.

"This is the time to be a leader," Shell said. "I have to step up and show everybody that even though we're losing, we can turn things around."

Additional Information:

WPIAL career rushing leaders

1. Mike Vernillo, Fort Cherry (thru 1999): 7,646

2. Matt Gavrish, Penn-Trafford (thru 1997): 6,512

3. Rodney Wilson, West Greene (thru 1993): 6,304

4. Jason Barr, McGuffey (thru 1993): 5,749

5. Chico Williams, Aliquippa (thru 1992): 5,417

6. Darrell Harding, Charleroi (thru 1991): 5,410

7. Rushel Shell, Hopewell (still active) : 5,265

8. Max Suter, Greensburg Central Catholic (thru 2006): 5,252

9. Todd Harris, Duquesne HS (thru 2001): 5,224

10. Keith Miller, Beth-Center (thru 1994): 5,121

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