For the 18th time in the last 36 seasons, the New Palestine football team will play in a sectional championship game Friday night. The Dragons host the Anderson Indians at Kelso Stadium.
Reminder, kickoff is 7 p.m., which is 30 minutes earlier than our regular season games.
Class 5A Sectional 12 championship
Anderson Indians (3-7, 2-5 North Central)
at No. 1/1 New Palestine Dragons (10-0, 7-0 Hoosier Heritage)
Date: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2
Site: Kelso Stadium
Admission: $6 (pre-sale tickets available at NPHS through 3 p.m. Friday. Fans are encouraged to purchase presale tickets).
- New Pal Radio (link to listen or click the embedded link below). Coverage begins at 6 p.m.
SETTING THE SCENE
The New Palestine Dragons are seeking the 10th sectional championship in school history as they host the Anderson Indians in tonight’s sectional final. Anderson is seeking its first sectional title.
The two teams have met once: a 51-21 Dragon victory in the 2010 sectional opener. The Dragons are 12-0 all-time against North Central Conference squads, including a 77-0 victory over Kokomo this season. Anderson is 1-2 against HHC foes this season, falling 31-9 to Yorktown and 51-13 to Pendleton Heights in the first two weeks before last week’s win over Greenfield-Central.
The winner will play Harrison (5-5) or Kokomo (5-5) in next week’s regional. If New Palestine wins, it would be on the road regardless of opponent.
The Dragons enter the sectional championship with a 10-0 record after their third victory over a ranked opponent this season, beating No. 7 Zionsville 29-17 in last week’s sectional semifinal.
The Dragons amassed 387 total yards – including 257 on the ground – in last week’s victory. Junior RB Charlie Spegal ran for 138 yards and four TDs, while senior QB Zach Neligh completed 11-of-15 for 140 yards on a rainy, windy night. He also ran for 120 yards. It marked the second time this season the Dragons had two 100-yard rushers in the same game.
The Dragons’ victory last week marked the second time in five seasons NP had avenged a postseason defeat from the previous year. The Dragons also beat Columbus East 30-28 in the 2014 semistate after falling to the Olympians the year before.
New Palestine is 9-8 all-time in sectional championship games. The Dragons are 3-1 in sectional title games under Coach Ralph.
The Dragons rank second in the state in scoring (61.7) and victory margin (51.6). NP ranks 17th in the state and first in Class 5A in scoring defense (10.1)
At 65.33 points per game, the Dragons sport the state’s top scoring offense. NP is second to Pioneer with a 56-point victory margin. The Dragons’ 588 points are third-most in school history, second only to the 2015 state runner-up team (854 in 14 games, state record) and 2014 championship team (851 in 15 games).
Spegal ranks second in the state and ninth in the nation with 2,303 rushing yards. He leads the nation in scoring with 53 TDs and 320 points. He is currently 12th in career rushing (6,637), 17th in career scoring (620 points) and eighth in season scoring.
Neligh became the second Dragon to tally 5,000 yards of total offense in his career. He also became the fifth player in NPHS history to throw for 3,000 yards. He has 3,075 passing yards and 5,226 yards of total offense. This season, he has tallied 1,185 passing yards and 836 on the ground.
Senior WR Colby Jenkins needs 43 receiving yards to reach 1,500 for his career.
SCOUTING THE INDIANS
Anderson’s 33-12 victory over G-C was the Indians’ first tournament victory since 2013 and second since 1992, the last time the Indians were in a title game.
First-year coach Ron Qualls has brought the air-raid attack that led Heritge Christian to two State Finals and a 2A title in 2008. Senior QB Xander Stokes has thrown for 2,025 yards. Twelve of his 17 passing TDs have come in the last four weeks, a stretch in which Anderson has gone 3-1. Junior Malachi Qualls leads Anderson with 103 catches for 890 yards. Sophomore Jack Gray leads the Indians with 141 tackles, including eight for loss. Joseph Jones has three interceptions.
Stokes threw for a career-high 403 yards and five TDs last week in a 33-12 victory over Greenfield-Central. He was 26-of-42. Octavio Anderson ran for 74 yards and caught seven passes for 168 yards and two scores. Willie Dennison also had 10 catches for 160 yards and two TDs.
Tonight’s winner plays either Kokomo (5-5) or Harrison (5-5) in next week’s regional. If the Dragons win, they will be on the road regardless of opponent.