Every Friday night that is filled with high school football action is special…but this Friday night seemed to stand out for several reasons. Each classification was lined up with big showdown games that had folks calling it Separation Friday in the WPIAL. Plus a 12-year old record fell as one of the area’s best running backs ever took his place in history and in the record books. He and nine other players shined bright under the blinding Week Four HighLIGHTS.
Rushel Shell – Hopewell
He is now officially the KING of all running backs in the 105-year history of the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League. With all eyes upon him, Rushel Shell broke the old record of 7,646 held by Mike Vernillo of Fort Cherry early in the third quarter on a 54-yard run before ending up with 205-yards rushing for the night with three touchdowns, including the game winner in the fourth quarter as the host Hopewell Vikings beat the Mount Lebanon Blue Devils 27-20. (special kudos to the Devils Luke Hagy who rushed for 266 yards and 3 scores in a losing cause)
Dorian Brown – Baldwin
Again I ask, what can Brown do for you? He can deliver a huge play on a huge night for your schools biggest win in years. Dorian Brown rushed for 278 yards and scored two second half touchdowns, including the game winner on an 80-yard jaunt with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to lead the Baldwin Highlanders to a special non-conference win in their final tune-up before Greater Southern Conference play begins next week as they beat the neighboring Thomas Jefferson Jaguars 21-14.
Mack Leftwich – North Allegheny
Erie McDowell came into this Class AAAA Northern Seven Conference showdown with defending champion North Allegheny brimming with confidence and a perfect 3-0. However they made the long trip back up Interstate 79 with plenty of questions after being sliced and diced by Mack the Knife. Quarterback Mack Leftwich was 15 of 23 passing for 284 yards and two touchdowns as the Tigers remained perfect at 4-0 with a 49-14 whooping of the Trojans.
Zachary Cooper – Connellsville
It’s not exactly the kind of outhouse to the penthouse story that Hollywood love so, but Connellsville has clearly escaped the outhouse they have been trapped in for the last few years and now have an eye on the Highway to Heinz. Zachary Cooper rushed for 177 yards, most of which came on two long touchdown runs that started and ended the scoring in the Falcons 16-0 whitewash of the heartbroken Latrobe Wildcats giving Connellsville their first conference victory since October of 2005.
Bryce Leach – Elizabeth Forward
October 16th, 2009 was the last time Elizabeth Forward tasted victory on the gridiron…until their non-conference game against visiting Ambridge Friday night. Bryce Leach rushed for 190 yards and scored on touchdowns runs of 25 and 54 yards as the Warriors snapped a 14-game losing streak with a 27-14 triumph over the Bridgers.
Quad Law – Ringgold
Eventually folks in the Class AAA circles, especially in the Keystone Conference will discover that when you fight the Law, the Law wins. In one of the wildest games of the night, Ringgold’s Quad Law rushed for 177 yards and scored two touchdowns, including a fourth quarter score that turned out to be the game winner as the visiting Rams held on for a thrilling 42-41 victory when Greensburg-Salem went for a fake extra point and the win with 13 second left only to misfire and fall in a dandy.
Weslley Nesmith – Beaver Falls
No, Joe Willie Namath was in attendance to see his alma mater two weeks ago as Beaver Falls fell to Aliquippa in a key Class AA Midwestern Conference matchup. But the memories of old #12 were dancing Friday night when Weslley Nesmith lit up the sky. Nesmith was 10 of 12 passing for 310 yards, a gaudy average of over 30 yards a completion, plus he tossed three touchdown passes as the Tigers cruised to a 49-17 thrashing of the Waynesburg Raiders in non-conference action.
Cole Bush – Burrell
With a share of first place in the Class AA Allegheny Conference up for grabs in a battle of rivals in the AK Valley, host Burrell turned to a burning Bush to lead them to the promise land of victory. Bush rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns, including a 7-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter as the Buccaneers squeaked past the Freeport Yellowjackets 33-25 to improve to 2-0 atop the conference.
Josh Beverly – Sto-Rox
Every team in Class A wants to make the playoffs…then be seeded on the bottom of the bracket on the opposite side of the Clairton Bears. Most fans saw this battle between the top two teams in the Big Seven Conference as a chance to take control of the conference and get a leg up on a possible #2-seed. With plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, it was Josh Beverly of Sto-Rox who was the brightest star, shining…errr, running for 256 yards and scoring on three long touchdown runs to lead the Vikings to an impressive 48-27 victory over the visiting Rochester Rams.
Tanner Garry – Fort Cherry
Sure, he can throw a football into a garbage basket from the tennis courts, through the woods, over a river and around Grandma’s house, but can he throw for big yards with 11 angry opponents trying to chase him down. Uhhh, apparently. Fort Cherry quarterback Tanner Garry was 10 of 16 passing for a monster 318 yards and four touchdown passes, plus a scoring run in leading the Rangers to a 38-20 triumph over the host Carlynton Cougars in a Class A Eastern Conference tilt.