When the all-time leading rusher in Pennsylvania high school football history -- Rushel Shell -- played his last high school game in 2011, many assumed that Hopewell would be in for a rebuilding season the following year.
While Shell's absence obviously had a profound impact on last year's team, it has actually been the 2013 edition of the Vikings that has had to replace the most.
Through the first few games of the 2013 season, those losses have contributed to an 0-3 start, marking the first time since 1993 that Hopewell has lost its first three games of the season.
After finishing 5-6 last season and advancing to the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals, the Vikings brought back just nine starters in 2013, only three of whom are on offense. Among the players who had to be replaced were the starting quarterback, two of the team's top three rushers and the top two receivers.
Working in new pieces in several key positions, the Vikings have averaged just 9.3 points per game. Coach Dave Vestal noted in the preseason how his team's more experienced defense would have to buoy the offense while it went through its growing pains, but Hopewell has allowed at least 20 points in two of its first three games.
In a difficult conference, Vestal noted that while success will not come easily, his team must work through its problems.
"We're inexperienced on the offensive end, but we've just got to keep focusing on getting better," Vestal said. "The Parkway Conference is always tough, so we have to focus on ourselves."
Blackhawk avoids setback
While Hopewell saw its season hit a historic low last Friday, Blackhawk defeated the Vikings, insuring that the Cougars would not be making any unwanted history of their own. With the 13-0 win, Blackhawk went to 1-2 on the season and avoided its first 0-3 start since 1999.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, their schedule in the coming weeks features two strong Parkway Conference opponents -- 3-0 Central Valley and 2-1 New Castle.
Quakers receiver stands out
Quaker Valley has turned its fair share of heads this season, as it is off to a 3-0 start while averaging 41 points per game. Last Friday, in a victory against McGuffey, a large reason for its success was junior wide receiver Chris Conlan, who caught nine passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns, the second of which was the game-winning score.
Conlan's number of catches and yardage totals were the highest of any Quakers wide receiver since 2009, when Cory Leonard caught nine passes for 129 yards in a game. Last season, Conlan had 27 receptions for 475 yards.
Indians better than before?
With a majority of starters and key players back from its 2012 WPIAL championship-winning team, it was widely assumed that West Allegheny would be one of the better teams in Class AAA. The Indians have done little, if nothing, to erase that confidence. Through its first three games, West Allegheny is averaging 41.7 points per game, more than 16 points better than its mark at the same point last season (25.3), and is allowing just 8.7 points per game, about half the number of points (16) it had allowed through three games in 2012.
While its easy to dismiss this improvement as the product of playing weak teams, the Indians have played the same three opponents -- Blackhawk, Ambridge Area, Moon Area -- that they did in their first three games last season, in the same order, no less.
Games of interest
New Castle at Montour, 7:10 p.m., Friday -- The Red Hurricanes have bounced back impressively from their lopsided loss to Central Valley in the season opener. With quarterback Tynen Greer back, the Spartans improved to 2-1 last week, but it came in a one-point win against a Mohawk team they beat 41-0 in 2012.
Beaver at Beaver Falls, 7:30 p.m., Friday -- This will be the first test for a Beaver Falls team that has not won by fewer than 32 points this season. If anything, expect this game to be a high-scoring one -- the Bobcats are averaging 46.7 points per game while the Tigers are not far behind at 42.3 points per game.
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG