The New Palestine football team clinched a spot in the sectional championship game Friday, using a huge second quarter to beat Muncie Central 54-14 in the Class 5A Sectional 12 semifinal.
The Dragons will host Zionsville at 7 p.m. next Friday for the sectional championship.
Luke Canfield ran for 236 yards and the Dragons scored 24 points in less than five minutes of the second quarter, using big plays in all three phases, to break the game open.
The avalanche started with Alex Kropp’s 31-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter. On the Bearcats’ next snap, Ryker Large picked off a pass and ran it back 34 yards to the 10, setting up Canfield’s 5-yard TD run, giving NP 10 points in 48 seconds. After back-to-back three-and-outs, Brody Luker blocked a punt and ran it in from five yards out and Colby Jenkins reeled in a 45-yard TD pass from Zach Neligh. It took what was a 7-0 game at the quarter and turning it into a 31-0 lead. A Muncie Central pick-six cut into the edge, but NP responded with a four-play, 71-yard drive that was keyed by a 41-yard run by Canfield, setting up a 10-yard TD run by Neligh.
NP led 38-7 at the half, and added a TD in the third – a 50-yard run by Canfield – and two big plays in the fourth. Maxen Hook downed the Dragons’ only punt of the night at the Bearcats’ 2. Two plays later, Landan Burton stuffed a run play for a safety and Jenkins ran the ensuing free kick back 58 yards for a score.
Neligh had two TDs on the night, also rushing for an 18-yard score in the opening quarter. He ran for 77 yards and threw for 65 – with all three completions going to Jenkins.
NP’s defense was dominant early, holding the Bearcats to no first downs and seven yards total offense in the opening half. Muncie Central’s drives against the varsity defense yielded nine punts, an interception and a safety. The Dragon offense outgained the Bearcats 398-162 for the game, with most of the Bearcats’ yards coming in the fourth quarter.
Notes: The Dragons will be playing in their 17th sectional title game next week. NP is 9-7 all-time in sectional finals. … Canfield’s 236-yard game was his fourth 200-yard rushing game of the year, and the Dragons’ fifth. It gave him 1,686 yards for the season, moving him from ninth to fifth place on the NPHS single-season rushing list. He passed Nick Brickens (2015), Eric Alcorn (2005), James Young (2014) and Chris Grider (2003). He needs 145 yards to pass DuRon Ford (2016) for fourth place. … Jenkins passed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for his career, now with 1,028 yards. He is the seventh Dragon to reach the 1,000-yard mark. He needs 14 yards to catch Keith Roseman (1983-84) for sixth and 32 yards to catch Todd Yoder (1993-95) in fifth. … Zach Neligh passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in the contest, becoming the third person to run and throw for 1,000 yards in a season, joining Blake Luker (2013) and Alex Neligh (2014, 2015). … The 31-point second quarter was the Dragons’ second 30-point quarter this season. They also scored 35 in the second quarter against Shelbyville. … NP has now scored 50+ points in five straight games. … Luker’s blocked punt was the Dragons’ first blocked punt return for a TD since 2015. … The safety was also the first safety since the 2015 season against New Castle. … NP held Muncie Central without a completed pass, the first time since 2015 against New Castle the Dragons have held a team to 0 or fewer passing yards. … The Dragons are now 54-33 in the state tournament, and 15-3 under Coach Ralph.
Muncie Central (1-9) 0 – 7 – 0 – 7 — 14
New Palestine (10-0) 7 – 31 – 7 – 9 — 54
NP-Neligh 18 run (Kropp kick), 9:33
NP-Kropp 31 FG, 11:56
NP-Canfield 5 run (Kropp kick), 11:08
NP-Luker 5 blocked punt return (Kropp kick), 9:09
NP-Jenkins 45 pass from Neligh (Kropp kick), 7:00
MC-Leavell 55 interception return (Baule kick), 4:38
NP-Neligh 10 run (Kropp kick), 3:31
NP-Canfield 50 run (Kropp kick), 3:29
NP-Safety: Cleaves tackled in end zone, 11:00
NP-Jenkins 58 free kick return (Kropp kick), 10:51
MC-Cleaves 50 run (Baule kick), 7:56
First downs: MC 6, NP 17
Rushes-yards: MC 57-157; NP 48-323
Passing C-A-I: MC 0-3-1; NP 3-8-2
Passing yards: MC 0; NP 65
Total offense: MC 60-157; NP 56-388
Penalties-yards: MC 4-41, NP 1-5
Fumbles-lost: MC 2-0, NP 7-0
Rushing: Abbott 23-101, Cleaves 21-70, Gillentine 10-9, Eils.Young 1-(-5), Phillips 1-0, team 1-(-18)
Passing: Gillentine 0-3-1-0
Rushing: Canfield 23-236, Neligh 13-77, Jones 7-34, R.Large 1-8, Jenkins 2-(-7), team 2-(-25)
Passing: Neligh 3-8-2-65
Receiving: Jenkins 3-65