- High School
Hopewell’s Rushel Shell has a chance to break the state career rushing record in Friday night’s WPIAL Quarterfinals against Franklin Regional. That alone makes this game special.
But Shell and a running back in a Franklin Regional uniform truly make this a playoff game for the ages.
Shell finished the regular season as the WPIAL’s leading rusher with 1,764 yards. Franklin Regional’s Dane Brown was second with 1,673 yards. Seeing the two leading rushers on the same field in a WPIAL playoff game is truly a rarity.
In the last 32 years, there has only been one other time when the top two rushers in the WPIAL have met in a playoff game. Coincidentally, Shell also was involved in that one. It was two years ago when West Allegheny defeated Hopewell in the WPIAL Class AAA title game at Heinz Field. Shell was the leading rusher that season and West Allegheny’s Mike Caputo was second.
So, since 1979, there has only been one other playoff game, one other showdown, like Shell vs. Brown. Tonight’s game will be played at Fox Chapel.
Here is some more fodder to show how unusual it is to see the top two rushers in the WPIAL play in a playoff game:
* From 1979 through 2010, one of the top two rushers in the regular season failed to make the playoffs 15 times.
* In the previous 32 seasons, the top two rushers in the WPIAL have come from the same classification only five times. They were Caputo and Shell in 2009, East Allegheny’s Monte Ashby and Beaver’s Jake Nardone in 2008; Mars’ Billy Bair and East Allegheny’s Ashby in 2007; Beaver’s Tom Reid and Hopewell’s Craedel Kimbrough in 1991; Ambridge’s Kelvin Fisher and Southmoreland’s Ken Dworek in 1986.
Reid and Kimbrough did go against each other in 1991, but it was a regular-season game.
In 1979, Quigley’s Rod Jeter and Western Beaver’s Gary Tammaro were the WPIAL’s top two scorers during the regular season, and they met in the WPIAL championship game.
In the End Zone
Franklin Regional’s Brown scored 30 touchdowns this season, tops in the WPIAL. Brown is one of only five players since 2000 who have scored 30 touchdowns in the regular season. The others are Steel Valley’s Delrece Williams (2010), Greensburg Central Catholic’s David Miller (2008), Mars’ Bill Bair (2007) and Thomas Jefferson’s Jon Drager (2002).
Thirty-five players from the WPIAL rushed for 1,000 yards during the regular season, but two of them were quarterbacks. Ringgold’s Quad Law had 1,208 yards and averaged 14.7 yards a carry, the best among all 1,000-yard rushers. Shady Side Academy’s Reggie Mitchell rushed for 1,045 yards.
Pitt Gets Blackhawk Sophomore QB
It has been well-documented how it has become popular for high school athletes to make "early" commitments to colleges. Blackhawk quarterback Chandler Kincade decided on his college "real early."
Kincade is only a 16-year-old sophomore at Blackhawk, but he made a verbal commitment to Pitt this week. Pitt offered Kincade a scholarship in August when he came to the Panthers’ South Side facilities to watch practice. With him were Blackhawk quarterbacks coach Sam Nardone and also Kincade’s grandfather, former WPIAL football coach Karl Florie. It was one of several times Kincade has visited Pitt.
Ever since that day, Kincade said he knew he wanted to go to Pitt. He was going to make a commitment to Pitt during the season, but decided to wait until after the season.
Kincade is 6 feet 5, 218 pounds and became Blackhawk’s starting quarterback as a freshman. He missed four games this season because of a shoulder injury.
Kincade can’t sign a binding letter of intent with Pitt until February of his senior year at Blackhawk. But athletes can make a verbal, non-binding commitment to a school at any time if offered a scholarship. USC coach Lane Kiffin once offered a seventh-grade quarterback a scholarship.
Pitt was the only school to offer Kincade a scholarship, but more scholarships probably would have come his way in the future. When asked if there was any chance of him changing his mind in the next few years, Kincade said, "I’m a 16-year-old kid right now and my choice right now is Pitt. That’s where my mind is and where my heart is. For right now, I’m committed to Pitt."
Kincade was an all-section guard for Blackhawk in basketball as a freshman, but said he will not play basketball this season.
Geno Thorpe, a junior basketball player at Shaler, made a verbal commitment to Penn State earlier this week. Thorpe can’t sign a binding letter of intent until November of his senior year.
Thorpe will be the second member of his family to play a sport at Penn State. His uncle is Chris Thorpe, who was a star running back at Fox Chapel and signed with Penn State in 1985. In 1984, Chris Thorpe’s senior season, he was the seventh-leading rusher in the WPIAL and helped Fox Chapel make it to the Class AAA semifinals before losing to Aliquippa.
"Yeah, he pushed Penn State a lot," Geno Thorpe said.
The PIAA volleyball championships are this weekend at Central York High School and the WPIAL is hoping for its first title since 2006 when West Allegheny won Class AA.
Seneca Valley and Pine-Richland are the two WPIAL representatives in Class AAA while Hopewell, Freeport and West Allegheny are in Class AA.
Hopewell has a good chance at winning the Class AA title. Merion Mercy won the past four Class AA championships but didn’t make the state tournament this year.
Either Seneca Valley and Pine-Richland is in good position to possibly make the finals in Class AAA. The last time the WPIAL had two state champions in volleyball was 1997 when Mt. Lebanon and Shannock Valley won.
Where Are They Now?
* The Akron mens basketball team started the season with an impressive 68-58 victory at Mississippi State, and two former WPIAL players did well in the win. McKeesport graduate Zeke Marshall is a junior and Akron’s starting center. He had 10 points, six rebounds and five blocked shots.
Also, Moon graduate Brian Walsh played his first game for Akron since transferring from Xavier in 2010. Walsh, a junior, came off the bench to score nine points.
* While the Penn State football program deals with its mess, the Penn State womens soccer team begins play in the NCAA Tournament tonight (Friday) when the Nittany Lions play Army in a first-round game. Penn State is ranked No. 13 in the country and the team’s second-leading scorer is from the WPIAL. Taylor Schramm, a Canon-McMillan graduate, has 12 goals and 12 assists.