The New Palestine Dragons are atop the IHSAA football world again.
The Dragons won their second straight Class 5A football championship Friday, beating No. 2 Valparaiso 27-20 in the title game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Dragons used a 17-point third quarter to break a 10-10 halftime tie and take control of the contest, then used two big first-down runs by Charlie Spegal to seal it after the Vikings cut the lead to seven late in the fourth.
Spegal ran for 160 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that gave the Dragons a 17-10 lead with 8:11 left in the third. The New Palestine defense then forced a fumble on the Valpo 37. Eric Roudebush – who took over at quarterback for an injured Lincoln Roth in the second quarter – broke a 25-yard run that set up first-and-goal. Valpo’s defense held, but Alex Kropp drilled a 20-yard field goal with 4:05 left to extend the lead to 20-10. After an exchange of punts, Ryker Large picked off a pass and ran it back 34 yards for a touchdown to put NP up 27-10.
Valparaiso scored on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 27-20, but Spegal carried for two first downs to allow NP to run out the clock and begin the celebration.
Spegal ran for 122 second-half yards on 13 carries – including the touchdown – leading a rushing game that tallied 212 yards. Roudebush ran for 53 yards on 12 carries. Roth carried for 21 yards. NP was outgained 407-262 in the contest, as Valpo quarterback C.J. Opperman was 13-31 for 292 yards. The Red Rage held a powerful Vikings running game to 115 total yards on 33 carries.
The Dragons took the opening kickoff and marched 63 yards in seven plays, with Roth hitting Blake Austin for a 24-yard TD to give NP a lead. The teams exchanged punts on their next possessions, before Valpo tied the game on a 25-yard pass from Opperman to Antonio Osorio with 1:16 left in the first quarter. Both teams had one second-quarter possession, ending with the same result. Kropp nailed a 23-yard field goal to cap a 15-play, 53-yard drive and put NP up 10-7. Valpo answered with a 17-play, 61-yard drive that stalled at the Dragons’ 14 and led to Liam Shepherd’s 36-yard field goal with 15 seconds to go before halftime.
Valpo drove into NP territory on the first drive of the second half, but Shepherd missed a 42-yard field goal. Spegal broke his 80-yard TD on the next play – taking an option pitch to the right, cutting it all the way across the field to the left sideline, and then following an escort of blockers to the pylon for the TD.
Notes: The Dragons have now won state titles in 2014, 2018 and 2019, and are 3-1 in State Finals appearances under Coach Ralph … NP has now won 28 consecutive games, tied for the ninth-longest winning streak in IHSAA history in the tournament era (1973-present). It’s also tied for the longest streak in school history, as the Dragons also won 28 straight games in 2014-15. … Large’s pick-6 was the Dragons’ third straight week with an interception return for a TD. Maxen Hook had one against Cathedral and Brody Luker against Bloomington South. … Valpo was the first team to score two touchdowns against the No. 1 defensive unit. The Red Rage finished the year allowing nine touchdowns and eight field goals … The Dragons finished the year with 4,327 rushing yards and 1,593 passing yards, for 5,920 yards total offense, an average of 422.8 per game … Spegal finishes his career with state records in career rushing yards (10,867), career rushing touchdowns (173), career total touchdowns (175) and career points (1,054).He finishes fourth all-time nationally in points and sixth in rushing yardage, according to the NFHS. He also graduates as NP’s career rushing leader with 6,524 yards in two seasons. …… Kropp was 3-3 on PATs and 2-2 on field goals, giving him 216 career points. That was second to Spencer Corey (285, 2013-15) in school history. … The Dragons’ 681 points were fourth-most in school history. NP averaged 48.6 ppg and allowed 8.9 ppg this season. … Hook finished the year the Dragons’ leading receiver (25-446). He and Austin tied for the team lead with seven receiving TDs. … Spegal rushed for 3,174 yards this season, second-most in school history to his 3,356 last year. He tallied 55 touchdowns. … Roth finished 96-149 passing for 1,574 yards and 20 touchdowns. … The state title was the 10th IHSAA team title in NPHS history. In addition to the three won by football (2014, 2018, 2019), the baseball team has won won (2004) and the softball team six (2004, 2008, 2009, 2017, 2018, 2019).
New Palestine (14-0) 7 – 3 – 17 – 0 — 27
Valparaiso (13-1) 7 – 3 – 0 – 10 — 20
NP-Austin 24 pass from Roth (Kropp kick), 9:20
V-Osorio 25 pass from Opperman (Shepherd kick), 1:16
NP-Kropp 23 FG, 8:11
V-Shepherd 36 FG, :15
NP-C.Spegal 80 run (Kropp kick), 8:54
NP-Kropp 20 FG, 4:05
NP-R.Large 34 interception return (Kropp kick), :57
V-Burbee 1 run (Shepherd kick), 5:15
V-Shepherd 38 FG, 3:08
First downs: NP 12, V 17
Rushes-yards: NP 46-212, V 33-115
Passing C-A-I: NP 4-9-0, V 13-31-1
Passing yards: NP 50, V 292
Total plays-yards: NP 55-262, V 64-407
Fumbles-lost: NP 0-0, V 2-1
Punts-avg: NP 5-40.6, V 4-34.2
Penalties-yards: NP 3-30, V 8-71
Time of possession: NP 23:52, V 24:08
Rushing: C.Spegal 23-160, Roudebush 12-53, Roth 8-21, R.Large 1-(-1), team 2-(-21)
Passing: Roth 3-4-0-48, Roudebush 1-5-0-2
Receiving: Hook 3-26, Austin 1-24
Rushing: Burbee 20-108, Vinyard 9-29, Osorio 1-0, Opperman 2-(-3), team 1-(-19)
Passing: Opperman 13-31-1-292
Receiving: Osorio 5-130, Patterson 5-126, Burbee 2-24, Otterbacher 1-12