Boys Varsity Football · State Finals football preview: Dragons vs. Valparaiso


The New Palestine Dragons are seeking their third state championship in six years – and second straight – as they travel to Lucas Oil Stadium Friday for the IHSAA State Finals. The Dragons face Valparaiso in the only matchup of unbeaten teams for the weekend.

Both NP and Valparaiso are among the state’s top offenses and defenses. NP leads Class 5A in scoring offense, defense and victory margin. Valparaiso is second in scoring offense and victory margin and third in scoring defense. The Dragons advanced with a 45-0 victory over Bloomington South, while Valpo took an early two-score lead and used a strong defensive game to beat Fort Wayne Dwenger 10-7.

GAME DETAILS
No. 1/1 New Palestine Dragons (13-0, 7-0 Hoosier Heritage)
vs. No. 3/2 Valparaiso Vikings (13-0, 7-0 Duneland)

  • Time: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29
  • Site: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis (directions)
  • Admission: $15
    • Pre-sale tickets are available through 6 p.m. Wednesday and from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday at NPHS. Avoid the lines and buy early. NPHS receives a portion of all tickets sold through the school.
    • All seating is general admission. New Palestine and will be on the WEST sideline and our fans are asked to sit on the west side of the stadium.
  • Broadcast

GAME PREVIEW

SETTING THE SCENE

The Dragons return downtown for the fourth time in six years, seeking their second straight state title and third overall. NP is the defending Class 5A champion and also won the 4A title in 2014. The Dragons have also played in the State Finals in 1990 and 2015.

New Palestine is one of 25 schools in IHSAA history to appear in five State Finals. A victory this week would make NP the 19th school to win three state championships.

Valparaiso is in the State Finals for the first time since 2001 and the fourth time in school history. The Vikings are seeking their second overall state title and first since 1975.

Today’s game features the second-smallest school in Class 5A (New Palestine, classification enrollment 1,175) and the largest (Valpo, classification enrollment 2,054).

This is the only title game this season matching up two unbeaten teams.

DRAGONS NOTES

The Dragons earned their fifth State Finals appearance with a 38-point first half and a punishing ground game in a 45-0 victory over Bloomington South in last week’s semistate. NP rushed for 389 yards in the victory, and held Bloomington South to 87 total yards – including just 71 on the ground.

Senior RB Charlie Spegal ran for 275 yards on 24 carries last week, becoming the first back in IHSAA history to rush for 3,000 yards in two different seasons. Spegal now has 3,008 yards and 54 touchdowns this season. In the four tournament games, he has 1,045 yards and 16 touchdowns – with four coming in each game. Spegal leads the state in rushing, touchdowns (54) and scoring (326).

Spegal is the state’s all-time rushing leader, with 10,707 yards. He also holds state records for touchdowns (174), rushing TDs (172) and points (1,048).

QB Lincoln Roth was 0-for-2 last week, but is 23-33 for 249 yards in the four tournament games. Four receivers – Maxen Hook (22-420), Blake Austin (20-355) Ryker Large (18-289) and Brody Luker (13-222) – have 10+ catches each. Eric Roudebush leads Dragon receivers in the tournament with four catches and 67 yards. Roth has completed passes to at least four different receivers in 11 games this season.

The Red Rage posted one of its finest performances of the season against Bloomington South, posting its third shutout of the year. Aven Jones led the defense with 10 tackles. He has 106 stops for the year. Brody Luker picked off a pass and took it 42 yards for his second pick-6 of the year and the Dragons’ fourth. NP has held two tourney foes to fewer than 100 rushing yards – Bloomington South (71) and Whiteland (94).

The Dragons lead the state in victory margin (42.3) and are second in the state (and lead Class 5A) in points (50.3). NP leads Class 5A and fifth in the state in scoring defense (8.0). The Dragons also lead Class 5A in rushing offense (316.5) and total offense (435.2).

SCOUTING THE VIKINGS

Valparaiso returns to the State Finals in Class 5A after narrowly missing a bid in 6A last season, when the Vikings dropped a close semistate game to Carmel. Coach Bill Marshall’s squad is second to NP in Class 5A in scoring (41.3) and victory margin (32.3) and third in scoring defense (9.0).

Valpo earned its State Finals trip with a 10-7 victory last week over Fort Wayne Dwenger. The Vikings were led by junior RB Tommy Burbee, who ran for 119 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. Valpo amassed 215 yards on the ground and 248 yards total. Burbee has run for 1,655 yards and 22 TDs this year. RB Hayden Vinyard ran for 72 yards last week and has totaled 731 on the year.  QB C.J. Opperman has thrown for 1,385 yards and 13 scores. His favorite target is Luke Patterson (36-555).

DEs Cooper Jones (49 tackles, 5.5 sacks) and Dylan Dingman (12 sacks), as well as DB Josh Fedorchak (6 INTs) help lead Valpo’s defense.

FOLLOW US

All New Palestine games are broadcast on NewPalRadio.com, with coverage beginning an hour prior to kickoff. Follow the Dragons on Facebook (NewPalestineDragons), Twitter (@NPHSDragons) and online (NewPalestineAthletics.com).