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October 20, 2009Rushel Shell dons the number 1 on the back of his jersey.
At first glance, seeing the thin, single digit on a running back's uniform may seem strange and unorthodox.
But after Shell's breathtaking performance Friday night against the West Allegheny Indians (5-2, 4-1), his number selection seems all too appropriate.
Shell led his Hopewell Vikings (7-0, 4-0) to a 34-26 victory that propelled the Vikings into sole possession of first place in the WPIAL Class AAA Parkway Conference.
The sophomore sensation rushed for 349 yards and three touchdowns on just 23 carries.
"I never expected to do something like this, not in such a big game against a really good team like West Allegheny," Shell told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "The line did a good job of opening some holes, and then the wide receivers made some big blocks downfield."
Shell recorded touchdown runs of 84, 77, and 10 yards, with the first two giving Hopewell a 20-14 halftime lead.
And this wasn't a fluke performance.
Shell's historic night was his 13th consecutive 100-yard performance and his seventh career 200-yard game. Shell also eclipsed 3,000 yards for his career and he still has two more seasons to go.
The game's other running back, West Allegheny's Mike Caputo, helped keep his team in the contest rushing for a comparatively modest 218 yards.
Trailing 20-7 late in the first half, Caputo took a snap out of the Wildcat formation and ran straight up the middle for a 62-yard score.
The teams would trade touchdowns to start the second half before Shell's third and final touchdown gave the Vikings a 34-20 lead late in the fourth quarter.
The Indians would add a late score but a failed onside kick attempt cemented a Viking victory.
Despite a highly competitive contest, there was only one player anyone wanted to talk about after the game. He was the running back wearing No. 1: Rushel Shell.
"Well, if he didn't have those Division I college scholarship offers before, he should get them now," said West Allegheny coach Bob Palko to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He's everything they say he is."