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Hopewell tailback ready to replace state's all-time rusher

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 7:58 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Hopewell running back Adam Murray. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Hopewell head coach Dave Vestal with Pat Tarquinio. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Hopewell tailback Adam Murray must replace the greatest high school rusher in state history.

And he's fine with that.

“I like all that pressure,” Murray said. “We'll see what happens.”

The Vikings are prepared for their first season following the Rushel Shell era, a four-year period highlighted by broken WPIAL, state and national records. Now a freshman at Pitt, Shell topped a talented graduating class that included quarterback Nolan Harmotto and fullback Zach Romah.

“It was a strange feeling,” Murray said of the first summer workouts without them. “I basically played with them my whole life, but now everyone has to step up.”

Murray, a senior, has done his part to make the transition move smoothly.

“He's a really hard worker and a very good leader,” Hopewell coach Dave Vestal said. “I've seen a difference in him since the beginning of the summer. He's focused. I think he's on a mission, saying: ‘I know Rushel has been here the last four years, but now it's my turn.'

“There's a sense that he's taking over the ship, and making sure we're headed in the right direction.”

Senior Stefan Mrkonja will replace Harmotto at quarterback. Only four defensive starters remain from last season's playoff team, and three on offense. A few others saw considerable minutes. They include inside linebacker/fullback Mike Tempalski (5-11, 210), receiver/defensive back Arion Sepp (6-2, 180) and two linemen, Acantay Patton (6-3, 215) and Nick McCracken (6-2, 210). Murray (6-0, 200) also plays outside linebacker.

“It's going to be a challenge,” Vestal said. “We need to keep growing each week.”

The key could be its defense. The Vikings would like to slow games, limit scoring and use a ball-control offense that features Murray.

“Playing better defense would allow us to control the tempo of the game,” Vestal said.

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