The New Palestine Dragons open their Class 5A state title defense Friday as they travel to Whiteland. The Dragons are ranked No. 1 in Class 5A and are the defending state champions. Whiteland is 6-3 and enters the sectional with a five-game winning streak.
The winner moves on to face either Franklin or Seymour in the Nov. 8 sectional title game.
Pre-sale tickets are available in the NPHS office for $6 during school hours. Please note the 7 p.m. kickoff time for tournament games.
No. 1/1 New Palestine Dragons (9-0, 7-0 HHC)
at RV/RV Whiteland Warriors (6-3, 5-2 Mid-State)
- Time: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1
- Site: Whiteland High School (directions)
- Admission: $6
SETTING THE SCENE
The Dragons open their defense of the Class 5A state championship with a trip to Whiteland, a familiar foe for NP. The two teams have played 15 times in their histories, most recently in 2017, a 19-8 Dragon victory at Whiteland. This is the teams’ first tournament meeting since 2008, when Whiteland defeated NP in a Class 4A sectional game.
The Dragons enter having finished off their seventh straight unbeaten regular season and HHC championship. It marked the 21st conference championship in the 52-year history of New Palestine football, including the ninth in 10 years.
NP has been ranked No. 1 throughout the season, while Whiteland is receiving votes in both 5A polls. After a 1-3 start, the Warriors have won five straight.
NP has won 10 sectional titles in its history, including four under Coach Ralph (2013, 2014, 2015, 2018). Whiteland has won five, including two under Coach Fisher (2013-14).
The Week 9 victory over Delta was the Dragons’ 48th consecutive Hoosier Heritage Conference victory and means NP will maintain the traveling Helmet trophy for the seventh consecutive offseason.
Senior RB Charlie Spegal posted his 24th career 200-yard game in the Dragons’ 49-13 Week 9 victory over Delta, as he carried 30 times for 228 yards and three TDs. It was his fifth 200-yard game this season. He tied Brett Law’s 30-year-old state scoring record with 952 points. Spegal also holds the state records for career rushing yards (9,661) and touchdowns (158). Spegal needs 38 yards tonight to post his third consecutive 2,000-yard season. According to MaxPreps, he leads the state in rushing and scoring.
Junior QB Lincoln Roth threw for 203 yards against Delta, including 101 to Brody Luker, who caught touchdown passes of 47 and 48 yards. The latter capped off a 91-yard scoring drive that spanned the final minute of the first half. The game marked the second time this season NP has had a 100-yard rusher and receiver in the same game. Spegal and Maxen Hook combined for the feat against Center Grove.
Roth is completing 62 percent of his passes for 1,277 yards. That is the 14th-highest single-season total in NPHS history. Spegal’s 1,962 rushing yards are fourth-most in a season in NPHS history. He holds the record with 3,356, set last year.
Roth has spread the ball around in the passing game, as four receivers have double-digit catches. Maxen Hook leads the way with 363 yards and six TDs on 15 catches. Blake Austin has 16 catches for 319 yards and six TDs. Ryker Large (14-245) and Luker (11-203) each have 200+ receiving yards.
Senior MLB Aven Jones leads the Red Rage with 68 tackles, including 12 for loss. Senior DL Kyle King has 11.5 tackles for loss. Juniors Matt Brown and Richard Clevenger have 4.5 sacks each.
The Dragons lead the state in victory margin (46.3) and are second in scoring (54.4).
SCOUTING THE WARRIORS
Whiteland’s diverse, run-heavy attack has yielded big dividends for coach Darrin Fisher’s squad. The Warriors are averaging 294.8 yards per game on the ground and have run the ball on more than 90 percent of their snaps. Junior Melvin Taylor (581 yards, 7.9 ypc), Desmen Singleton (446 yards, 9.7 ypc), Chase Valentine (405 yards, 6.0 ypc) and Dalton Murray (400 yards, 9.5 ypc) lead the Warriors’ offense.
Whiteland finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Mid-State conference. Decatur Central, last season’s 5A runner-up, won the title.
Tonight’s winner faces either Franklin or Seymour in the Nov. 8 sectional title game. NP will host next week if it wins tonight. Whiteland would host Franklin but visit Seymour.
All New Palestine games are broadcast on NewPalRadio.com. NPHS Athletics is on Facebook (NewPalestineDragons), Twitter (@NPHSDragons) and online (NewPalestineAthletics.com).