The New Palestine football team completes a three-game homestand Thursday with a game against Pendleton Heights.
The Dragons are 2-0 in HHC play, while PH is 1-1.
4A RV/- Pendleton Heights Arabians (3-1, 1-1) at 4A 5/10 New Palestine Dragons (2-2, 2-0)
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Kelso Stadium
Tickets; $6, cash at gate or https://public.eventlink.com/tickets?t=41774
Video: IHSAAtv.org ($)
Audio: NewPalRadio.com (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
SETTING THE SCENE
The Dragons conclude their three-game homestand with another key Hoosier Heritage Conference game against Pendleton Heights.
This is the 37th meeting between the two schools. NP holds a 23-13 lead in the all-time series, which includes 11 straight victories. NP has won 21 of the last 23 meetings dating to 2003. Last year, the Dragons won 42-14, jumping out to a 35-0 lead at halftime and throwing for 310 yards.
The Dragons won the 400th game in program history last week, joining Roncalli and Zionsville as programs started after 1965 with 400 wins. NP is 400-203-2 all-time.
This is the Dragons’ fifth straight opponent who is either ranked or receiving poll votes.
The Dragons posted their best offensive game of the season last week, tallying 604 yards to beat Mt. Vernon 63-39. QB Gavin Neal tied a school record with five touchdown passes, completing 6-of-11 for 256 yards. He joined Daniel Tippit, who threw five TDs against Greenfield-Central last week, among multiple Dragons QBs in the 5 TD club. His TD passes were for 30, 45, 50 and 57 yards to Kyler Kropp and 69 yards to Ty Mitchell.
Kropp had four catches for 182 yards, each going for a touchdown, also setting a school record. The previous record of three TD catches was held by multiple people, most recently by Colby Jenkins in 2017. Kropp’s receiving yardage last week was the fourth-highest single-game total in school history. He also had 20 rushing yards and a touchdown, becoming the first Dragon with rushing and receiving TDs in the same game since Charlie Spegal in 2018 against Anderson.
The Dragons’ 604 yards against MV marked the first 600-yard game since tallying 691 in a 78-0 victory over Anderson in the 2018 sectional final.
Senior RB Grayson Thomas set a career high with 285 yards last week on 31 carries. He ran for two touchdowns. Thomas now has 4,678 career yards and is 220 yards away from becoming the first Dragon to rush for 1,000 yards in four seasons. He is second on the Dragons’ career rushing list. His 68 career touchdowns are also second-most in school history.
Thomas’ 285-yard game was the first 250+-yard rushing game since Spegal ran for 277 in the 2019 semistate against Bloomington South. Thomas’ 80-yard TD run was the Dragons’ longest run since he broke an 88-yard TD Sept. 3, 2021 as a sophomore.
The Dragons ran for 348 yards last week, their second 300-yard rushing game of the year. They also tallied 312 yards against Decatur Central.
The Dragons’ offensive line is anchored by senior Ian Moore. The Ohio State commit is the No. 2-ranked offensive lineman nationally by Rivals. He will be a two-way starter. Defensively, Michael Thacker returns for his third season as a starter after posting a sophomore season with 13 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss. Both were named IFCA Top 50 All-State players in 2022.
The Dragons forced three turnovers each of the last two weeks.
SCOUTING THE ARABIANS
PH’s success early came from its defense, which pitched three straight shutouts to begin the season. The last two weeks, PH has scored 80 total points. Last week, PH lost a 15-point lead in a 43-38 defeat to Greenfield-Central.
PH has used a versatile offense, with Caden Sims (14-174) and Nate DeRolf (14-153) leading the Arabians in the passing game. Quarterback Isaac Wilson has thrown for 350 yards and run for 185, while QB Colton Frank is completing 70% of his passes for 170 yards.
The Dragons travel to Greenfield-Central next week before returning home Sept. 29 to face Shelbyville in the Dragons’ 56th annual Homecoming contest.
All New Palestine games are broadcast free-to-listen at NewPalRadio.com. All home games are also video streamed at IHSAAtv.org on a pay-per-view basis.
NPHS Athletics is on Facebook and Instagram (@NewPalestineDragons), Twitter (@NPHSDragons) and online (NewPalestineAthletics.com).
Photo: Aaron Smith