New Palestine High School
Week 6 football preview: Dragons at Greenfield-Central
By Andrew Smith | Sep 22, 2023 8:17 AM
The New Palestine football team hits the road for the first time in a month as it faces county rival Greenfield-Central.
Both teams are 3-0 in Hoosier Heritage Conference play.
4A #6/10 New Palestine Dragons (3-2, 3-0 HHC) at 4A #5/5 Greenfield-Central Cougars (5-0, 3-0)
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Clayton Myers Field, Greenfield (directions: https://maps.app.goo.gl/egwXyoxsRZgNmkJT7)
Tickets; $6, cash at gate or https://gofan.co/event/1072114?schoolId=IN945
Audio: NewPalRadio.com (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
SETTING THE SCENE
The Dragons hit the road for the only time in a six-week span for another matchup of Class 4A ranked teams.
This is the Dragons’ sixth consecutive game against a team that is either ranked or receiving poll votes.
This is the 32nd meeting between the Dragons and Cougars. NP has a 26-5 record in the all-time series, which began in 1994 when the two schools co-founded the HHC. The Dragons have won 13 straight meetings and 15 straight regular-season meetings. Last year, NP won 42-7 in the regular season behind 158 rushing yards by Grayson Thomas, then won a 33-9 sectional meeting, as Kyler Kropp ran for 149 yards.
The Dragons are 72-2 in Hoosier Heritage Conference games under head coach Kyle Ralph.
The Dragons performed in all three phases last week to beat Pendleton Heights. The special teams started it off with an 89-yard touchdown return on the opening kickoff by Kyler Kropp. Later in the game, Brady Armstrong took an interception 55 yards for a score.
Kropp added a rushing touchdown last week to give him seven TDs in the last two games - four through the air, two on the ground and one via return.
Senior RB Grayson Thomas has posted four of the top 10 rushing games of his career this season. Last week, he tallied 192 yards on 31 carries, the sixth-highest total of his career. That came a week after rushing for a career-high 285 yards againt Mt. Vernon, also on 31 carries.
Thomas needs 15 yards from scrimmage and 130 rushing yards to reach 5,000 for his career in each category. He needs 29 rushing yards to become the first Dragon to rush for 1,000 yards in four seasons.
After struggling to create turnovers the first two weeks, the Red Rage has become the master of the theft since conference play began. The Dragons have forced three turnovers in each of the last three games, including three picks last week. In addition to Armstrong’s pick-6, Alex Guhl and Mason Hiatt picked off passes. Hiatt has intercepted a pass in three consecutive games.
The Red Rage held Pendleton Heights to 53 rushing yards and 178 total yards last week, both season-bests for the Dragons’ defense. The 14 points allowed were also a season-best.
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 is 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.
SCOUTING THE COUGARS
Greenfield-Central is 5-0 for the first time since 1973, when it went undefeated and won the Class 2A state championship.
The Cougars handilly beat Shelbyville 47-0 last week behind 164 passing and 100 rushing yards from QB Dallas Freeman. The Cougars had 288 total rushing yards in the contest.
Freeman is completing 60 percent of his passes for 736 yards and 12 TDs this season, while rushing for 368 yards and six TDs. Sophomore Braylen Benavente is G-C’s top rusher, with 470 yards and a touchdown.
The Dragons return home next week to face Shelbyville in the Dragons’ 56th annual Homecoming contest. They will finish the home schedule Oct. 6 against New Castle for Senior Night. The regular season concludes Oct. 13 at Delta.
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).