Rushel Shell entered Friday's regular season finale against West Allegheny 712 yards shy of the all-time PIAA rushing record but needing a win to extend the Vikings season.
The senior made sure he would have a few more games to get that record, as Hopewell (6-3, 4-3) downed West Allegheny, 31-14, behind 216 rushing yards and four touchdowns from Shell on his senior night.
The win gave Hopewell a third-place finish in the Parkway Conference. West Allegheny, which already had clinched a playoff spot going into the game, finished fourth.
"It was do or die," Shell said. "We looked at it as we didn't want to be at home watching someone else play on Friday. We wanted to be out there."
The Indians (5-4, 4-3) committed five turnovers and failed to sustain any sort of offensive momentum. Quarterback Dylan Bongiorni threw four interceptions, two to Hopewell's Nolan Harmotto on back-to-back passing attempts.
On West Allegheny's first offensive play, Bongiorni fumbled after a 6-yard rush, and Stefan Mrkonja returned the ball 32 yards to the West Allegheny 8-yard-line. The Indians defense stiffened, though, and Hopewell settled for a 23-yard field goal by Nate Bowden.
West Allegheny answered back with a 13-play, 66-yard touchdown drive that ate up 6:30 on the clock. On second-and-11 from the Hopewell 21, Bongiorni took the snap and dumped a lateral swing pass to Tory Delmonico, who threw to a wide-open Tanner Cogar in the end zone for a 7-3 West Allegheny lead.
West Allegheny coach Bob Palko's defense contained Shell for most of the first half, holding him to just 24 yards on his first 10 carries. Four of Shell's first five rushes went for negative yards.
It was only a matter of time for Shell, though. The future Pitt running back scored on an 8-yard run on Hopewell's next drive and showed tremendous acceleration on a 65-yard score down the right sideline later in the second quarter.
For the rest of the game, the Indians just couldn't stay out of their own way. In the first half, three drives ended in turnovers and another ended on a punt after consecutive holding penalties backed them into a fourth-and-40 situation.
"You can only [turn the ball over] so much," Palko said.
It was more of the same in the second half for West Allegheny. Bongiorni completed a 57-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Floyd on his first attempt of the third quarter, but his next two were interceptions to Harmotto, who was playing with a broken thumb. West Allegheny ran just 18 plays in the second half, holding the ball for 7:33.
Bongiorni's touchdown pass pulled the Indians within three, but that was the closest they would come. Shell scored from a yard out later in the third quarter and iced the game with a 20-yard touchdown run with 54 seconds left. He now has 8,541 career yards, 496 from the all-time mark.
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1459.