Indians End Vikings Quest at Hienz Field 34-36
Written by: Billy Splain on Saturday, November 28th, 2009
PITTSBURGH-We have seen many great two-man rivalries over the years: Ali vs. Frazier, Bird vs. Magic, and of course, the Backyard Brawl with Pitt and West Virginia. On Friday night, another two-man show was on the marquee: Hopewell’s Rushel Shell vs. West Allegheny’s Mike Caputo.
The first time these two met, Shell and Hopewell were the victors, 34-26, in a Week 7 matchup at Hopewell’s Tony Dorsett stadium. This time around, the stakes were higher: the WPIAL Class AAA championship at Heinz Field.
Both players paced their team’s offense with four rushing touchdowns, but in the end, it was defense that decided the game as West Allegheny turned away a late Hopewell rally to win, 36-28. It was West Allegheny’s first WPIAL championship win since 2001, the last of three consecutive titles for head coach Bob Palko’s Indians.
West Allegheny’s defense set the tone early when junior linebacker C.J. Revtai picked off a Matt Hundenski pass and returned it 26 yards to the Hopewell 12-yard line. On the Indians’ first play from scrimmage, Caputo took a direct snap out of the Wildcat formation into the end zone, and a two-point conversion pass from Tyler Buck to Ben Simmen gave them an early 8-0 lead.
Caputo struck again later in the first quarter with an eight-yard touchdown run, and with an early 15-0 lead, West Allegheny appeared to be in control. But Shell took the ensuing kickoff for 49 yards, putting Hopewell in excellent field position.
The Vikings then proceeded on a seven-play, 48-yard drive to finally get on the scoreboard. Shell finished it off with an eight-yard touchdown run to make it 15-7 less than two minutes into the second quarter.
The next eight minutes of the quarter belonged to Caputo. After a long kickoff return and a 15-yard penalty, it took only one play, a 29-yard touchdown run, to put West Allegheny ahead, 22-7.
Then, on the Indians’ next possession, Caputo finished off a 65-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run – his fourth of the game – which made it 29-7 with 1:32 left in the first half. He finished the first half with 21 rushes for 127 yards, while Shell had 17 for 76 yards.
Hopewell made a surge late in the half, highlighted by a 34-yard pass from Hundenski down the middle to Mark Ross to set up a 1st-and-Goal on the West Allegheny 3. Two failed sneak attempts by Hundenski and a false start penalty pushed the Vikings back to the 6-yard line for a 3rd-and-Goal with five seconds remaining and the possibility of coming away empty before the half.
But Shell removed all doubt, scoring on a toss play to make it 29-14 as time expired. Then, after receiving the opening second half kickoff, Shell finished off a seven-play, 46-yard drive when he went off-tackle to the right and dove into the pylon for a four-yard touchdown, closing their deficit to 29-21.
West Allegheny wasn’t done yet, taking the ball 62 yards in 11 plays, and a one-yard touchdown run on a keeper by Buck made it 36-21 late in the third quarter. Shell fumbled on the ensuing possession, but West Allegheny couldn’t capitalize on Hopewell’s second turnover of the game.
Shell evened the score in the battle of the running backs, breaking a 68-yard run off right tackle, matching Caputo for his fourth touchdown. He finished with 274 yards on 42 carries while Caputo had 178 yards on 25 attempts, but the Vikings still trailed 36-28 with just over nine minutes remaining in the game.
After a West Allegheny punt on a three-and-out, Hopewell took over at their 36-yard line with a chance to tie the game and possibly send it to overtime. The Vikings drove down to the Indians’ 27, facing a 4th and 1, but a 3-yard run by Shell gave them new life.
After a five-yard loss on first down, Hopewell took a shot at the end zone, but Hundenski’s pass to Dayne Smith was knocked down by Aaron McKinney. A two-yard gain by Hundenski on third down meant the Vikings once again faced a 4th down with their season on the line, but the pass attempt into the end zone was knocked away, sealing the game for West Allegheny.
The Indians will move on to the quarterfinal round of the PIAA playoffs, will they will face the winner between City League champion Schenley and Erie Cathedral Prep.
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