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PSR Game of the Week: Shell's late heroics lift Hopewell to 22-19 upset over Montour

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Too often, games that look like great match-ups on paper fail to live up to the hype. But the Montour-Hopewell match-up at Tony Dorsett Stadium on Friday night didn't merely live up to the hype, it surpassed any and all expectations.

Montour came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, driving to the Hopewell 17 before a turnover on a muffed snap ended their opening drive and turned the game into a defensive battle. Host Hopewell took a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter.

While Montour quarterback Dillon Buechel was humming early, it took a 65-yard run from Julian Durden in the second quarter to jump-start the Spartans' offense. A few plays later, Buechel found receiver Darren Massey in the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown strike to cap a 92-yard drive that put Montour in front 6-3.

After the score, the Montour defense forced Hopewell into a second straight a three-and-out and took over at midfield late in the first half. Another big run from Durden set up Massey for a 4-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-goal to give the Spartans a 12-3 lead at the half.

Durden was easily outshining Shell in the first half, with 142 yards on 8 carries, while Shell checked in with a yeoman's effort, picking up 65 yards on 12 carries.


The Vikings came out with blinders on in the second half, as coach Dave Vestal decided to ride his horse early and often. Shell picked up 52 yards on his first four touches of the third quarter, and at one point carried the ball seven consecutive times, gaining 67 yards and finding paydirt to pull the home team within 12-10.

Montour answered, riding Durden and Buechel on a steady drive into Hopewell territory. Facing a 4th-and-10 from the Hopewell 34, Buechel slid out of a collapsing pocket, kept the play alive and scampered 22 yards for the first down. On the very next play, Durden went 12 yards for a touchdown to extend Montour's lead to 19-10 as the third quarter came to a close.

Hopewell closed the gap to 19-16 when senior QB Nolan Harmotto dove in from the one.

With Shell now in a groove and the young Hopewell offensive line getting a consistent push on the much-bigger and more experienced Spartans' defensive front, Hopewell coach Dave Vestal decided to roll the dice and ride the wave of momentum his offense had created. The Vikings pulled off an onside kick and took over with just over five minutes remaining in the game. The volume of the home crowd was on 10 and the Montour defense was on its heels as the Vikings pushed the ball into Spartans' territory.

But just like that, Shell lost his grip on the football and Montour recovered, leading 19-16 with just over four minutes remaining.

The Hopewell defense would have to stand tall, and they did, forcing Durden, Buechel and company to a three-and-out, giving the ball back to their offense at the Montour 43 with 3:08 remaining.

Three plays and a mere six yards brought up a 4th-and-4 from the Montour 37. Vestal called a timeout with a little over a minute remaining.

With the game on the line for Hopewell, there was little doubt what was coming, and Vestal no intention of disguising anything. Hopewell lined up in a traditional I-formation, Harmotto spun and handed to Shell – and the senior superstar took the ball 37 yards into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown, sending the stadium into a frenzy. The point-after missed, and Hopewell clung to a 22-19 lead.

Buechel, however, was calm and collected despite the fact that the house was deafening. He scrambled for a first down, hit a receiver to move the sticks again and marched his offense inside the 15 with under 15 seconds remaining. On the next play, Montour went for the win, but Buechel's pass into the end zone was intercepted by the Vikings' Keenan Barret, clinching the upset for Hopewell.


The PSR Game of the Week travels to Mount Lebanon next Friday when the Blue Devils play host to Penn Hills.

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