For decades, the Red Rage defense has been a large part of the New Palestine football tradition.
It had one of its finest hours Friday, stymying a strong Whiteland offense en route to a 35-7 sectional victory.
The Dragons held Whiteland to 165 total yards, including just 96 on the ground – and forced two second-half turnovers to help tip the scales in NP’s direction, especially in a dominant fourth quarter.
Senior RB Charlie Spegal ran for 245 yards and four touchdowns – including three in the fourth quarter to help the Dragons seal the game.
The top-ranked Dragons (10-0) advance to face No. 9 Franklin (8-2) in the Nov. 8 sectional championship game at Kelso Stadium. Whiteland finishes 6-4.
Whiteland’s only score came on a first-quarter trick play – a 57-yard halfback pass into triple coverage that was tipped twice by Dragons, but fell into a receiver’s hands, who outran the defenders to the end zone.
From there, Whiteland gained just four more first downs the remainder of the game as NP held the Warriors to less than three yards per carry. Whiteland’s longest running play was for eight yards.
After punting on their first four possessions, the Dragon offense got into a rhythm late in the first half. A 12-yard pass to Maxen Hook on first down was followed by a 20-yard run by Spegal that got NP into Whiteland territory. Three plays later, NP faced fourth-and-4 from the Warriors’ 41. Blake Austin took a jet sweep around the left side, turned the corner and took it into the end zone for the touchdown to tie the game with 8:25 left in the second quarter.
After the Red Rage forced a three-and-out, the Dragons embarked on a 13-play, 78-yard drive that was capped by Spegal’s 15-yard run with 1:11 left in the half, giving NP a 14-7 lead at the break.
In the second half, Whiteland drove into NP territory on each of its first two drives, but a tackle for loss on second down and an incomplete pass forced a punt on the first. On the second, the Warriors drove to the NP 35 but Hook thwarted the drive with an interception on the third quarter’s final play.
The Dragons seized the game from there. Spegal carried much of a 73-yard drive, including a punishing 26-yard run where he bowled over several defenders en route to the 2-yard line. Two plays later, he carried it into the end zone to give NP a 21-7 lead.
Whiteland was unable to muster a first down on its next possession and went for it on 4th-and-6 with 6:18 left. Kyle King’s fourth-down sack instead turned the ball back over to NP. Spegal carried for a 27-yard touchdown on the next play to push the lead to 28-7. Ryker Large picked off a pass on Whiteland’s next possession, setting up Spegal for a 2-yard TD run and the final score of the night.
The Dragons outgained their hosts 355-165, with NP tallying 310 on the ground. In addition to Spegal’s 245 yards, Lincoln Roth ran for 24 and threw for 45. Austin ran for 41 yards.
Notes: NP will be playing in its sixth sectional championship game in seven years under Coach Ralph next week. The Dragons have won four sectional titles in that span and 10 in their history. … Spegal’s four touchdowns made him Indiana’s career scoring leader with 976 points. He entered the day in a tie for the record with Brett Law (Sheridan 1989) with 952 … Spegal extended his state touchdowns (162) and yards (9,906) records. … Spegal has 2,207 yards for the season, his third straight 200-yard season. Friday’s game was his sixth 200-yard game of the season and 25th of his career. … The Dragons have now won 24 consecutive games. The school-record winning streak is 28, set during the 2014-15 seasons. … The two interceptions give the Dragons a plus-13 turnover ratio for the season. … Ryker Large’s interception was his second of the year, tying him with Luke Canfield and Brody Luker. The two interceptions were a season-high for the Dragons. … Kickoff next Friday is 7 p.m. at Kelso Stadium.
IHSAA Class 5A sectional semifinal
Friday, Nov. 1, 2019 at James Sleighter Field, Whiteland
New Palestine (10-0) 0 – 14 – 0 – 21 — 35
Whiteland (6-4) 7 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 7
W-DeBaun 57 pass from Murray (Spangler kick), 1:39
NP-Austin 41 run (Kropp kick), 8:25
NP-C.Spegal 15 run (Kropp kick), 1:11
NP-C.Spegal 2 run (Kropp kick), 8:44
NP-C.Spegal 27 run (Kropp kick), 6:09
NP-C.Spegal 2 run (Kropp kick), 1:01
First downs: NP 18, W 6
Rushes-yards: NP 45-310, W 36-94
Passing C-A-I: NP 5-9-0, W 2-8-2
Passing yards: NP 45, W 71
Total offense: NP 54-355, W 44-165
Fumbles-lost: NP 0-0 W 0-0
Punts-avg: NP 5-33.4, W 5-43.8
Penalties-yards: NP 6-58, W 10-70
Rushing: C.Spegal 33-245, Austin 1-41, Roth 9-24, R.Large 1-3, Hook 1-(-3)
Passing: Roth 5-9-0-45
Receiving: R.Large 2-11, Hook 1-12, C.Spegal 1-12, Roudebush 1-10
Rushing: Valentine 9-33, Murray 7-18, Turner 8-16, Singleton 5-15, Lutz 3-6, Kunz 4-6
Passing: Murray 1-1-0-57, Kunz 1-7-2-14
Receiving: DeBaun 1-57, Lutz 1-14