The Dragons travel to Harrison (West Lafayette) for the Class 5A regional this Friday.
Class 5A regional championship
No. 1/1 New Palestine Dragons (11-0, 7-0 Hoosier Heritage)
at Harrison Raiders (6-5, 4-3 North Central)
Date: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9
Site: Harrison High School, 5701N 50W, West Lafayette (directions)
Parking is available on the north, west and east sides of Harrison HS. The field is northeast of the high school building.
Admission: $8 (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.
- ISC Sports Network
SETTING THE SCENE
The New Palestine Dragons seek their sixth regional title in school history – and fourth since 2013 – as they visit the Harrison Raiders. Harrison is playing in the regional for the first time since 1994. Both schools have state championship trophies in the case – New Palestine’s in 2014, Harrison’s in 1992.
The Dragons advanced with a 29-17 victory over No. 7 Zionsville and a 78-0 win over Anderson. The Raiders beat Kokomo 19-16 in last week’s sectional final.
Tonight’s game matches two of the top teams in Class 5A in scoring defense. NP allows a class-leading 9.2 ppg, while Harrison ranks fifth, allowing 16.6 ppg.
Tonight’s winner plays either No. 3 Michigan City (9-2) or Concord (6-5) in next week’s semistate. New Palestine would be home regardless of opponent. Harrison would host Michigan City but travel to Concord.
The Dragons set several records in the 78-0 victory over Anderson, including the mark for victory margin. RB Charlie Spegal tallied 418 yards from scrimmage (364 rushing, 54 receiving) and eight touchdowns, both school marks. The Dragons’ 560 yards rushing were the third-most in school history – and the second-most this season. Spegal also became NP’s all-time touchdowns (61) and scoring (368) leader.
The Dragons are 11-0 for the fifth time in school history. NP has been 12-0 three times – 2013 (regional champion, finished 13-1), 2014 (state champion, 15-0) and 2015 (state runner-up, 13-1). The 2011 team finished 11-1.
Spegal became the ninth back in IHSAA history to rush for 7,000 career yards. He now has 7,009 yards and needs five to move into eighth place all-time. Spegal is now also fourth in single-season scoring (368), four points back of third. He is tied for ninth in career scoring (668) and needs 14 points to move into eighth. Spegal also has 61 touchdowns for the season, five short of the state record of 66, set in 1998 by Sheridan’s Brett Law. His 59 rushing TDs are two shy of the state record of 61, set in 2006 by Warren Central’s Darren Evans. He leads the state in rushing and the nation in scoring.
QB Zach Neligh did not have a rushing attempt for the first time in 23 career starts last week. He threw for 132 yards and a touchdown in the victory, with 70 going to Kade Large. Dragon QBs have now completed passes to 14 different receivers this year. Fourteen different Dragons have scored offensive TDs. Neligh needs 82 to move into third place on the NPHS career passing list. He’s currently fifth.
K Alex Kropp was 10-of-11 on PATs last week and now has 103 points this season.
LB Luke Ely tallied his second defensive TD of the year when he recovered a fumble in the end zone last week. Ely also has an interception return and a rushing TD.
The Dragons held Anderson to minus-56 rushing yards last week, a number that included 10 sacks. Kyle King rates first in the state with 16 sacks, including four last week. Noah Mack had two sacks.
Senior WR Colby Jenkins needs 43 receiving yards to reach 1,500 for his career.
The Dragons have yet to allow a first-quarter point this season, outscoring teams 282-0 in the opening 12 minutes. NP is second in the state in scoring (63.2) and victory margin (54.0) and ninth in scoring defense (9.2).
SCOUTING THE RAIDERS
Under head coach Terry Peebles, Harrison has had much success, with four winning seasons in his five years at the helm, which came after the Raiders had a 38-game losing streak from 2010-14.
Harrison is led by a ground game that averages nearly 200 ypg, led by RBs Omarion Dixon (853 yards) and Isaiah Armstrong (366 yards), as well as QB Andrew Jensen (500 yards). Jake Urban (58 tackles, 16.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks) and Jacob Cain (54 taclkes, 14.5 TFL, 8.5 sacks) lead one of the state’s top defenses.
Harrison’s defense allowed just one rushing yard and 209 total yards in the 19-16 win over Kokomo last week. Armstrong ran for 54 yards and Dixon 51 to lead a 162-yard rushing attack. Harrison also gained 209 total yards as Jensen threw for 47 yards and a TD to Jake Smith. Steve Coffing also had a rushing TD for Harrison.