Grayson Thomas scored a fourth-quarter touchdown and the New Palestine defense came up with two big fourth-down stops to lead a 21-14 Dragons victory over No. 5 Greenfield-Central Friday at G-C's Clayton Myers Field.
The Dragons moved into sole possession of first place in the Hoosier Heritage Conference with a 4-0 league record. They are 4-2 overall. G-C suffered its first loss and is now 5-1 (3-1). The victory marked the Dragons' 14th consecutive win over G-C and the 16th straight regular-season victory.
The Dragons raced out to a 14-0 lead, but G-C clawed back and tied the game on the first drive of the third quarter - a mammoth 15-play, 78-yard march that took half the period. Peyton Foley's 1-yard plunge, followed by a keeper by QB Dallas Freeman on the two-point conversion knotted the game.
The Dragons responded with a big drive of their own - one that took 15 plays and 66 yards and nearly five minutes and included two third-down and one fourth-down conversion, but it stalled at the G-C 10 and resulted in a blocked field goal.
G-C quickly drove to midfield on the ensuing possession. But on third-and-2 from the Dragons' 41, the Dragons blew up a counter play for a four-yard loss. On the next play, they forced and recovered a fumble in the G-C backfield, stymying a threat and taking over at their own 48.
From there, the Dragons put the ball in the hands of the running game. A 15-yard run by Gavin Neal on third-and-7 moved the chains to the G-C 34. A nine-yard pass on third-and-10 set the Dragons up at the 25, and Neal hard-counted the Cougars into an offside penalty. Ty Mitchell caught an eight-yard pass on 2nd-and-7 to move the chains again. Thomas carried eight yards to the 1 on first-and-goal, then scampered in two plays later with the go-ahead score with 5:28 left.
The winning drive carried 52 yards, but took 5:08 off the clock and left G-C with half the fourth quarter to work with. A squib kick was recovered by the Cougars at their 45 and they marched to the NP 31. Again, the Dragons blew up a play for a loss on first down. Three incompletions later - including an impressive pass breakup by Micah Clark in the end zone as he swatted a possible touchdown away from Kirk Knecht - the Dragons took over and ran out the clock.
Thomas ran for 184 yards and two touchdowns in the contest, leading a 332-yard attack. Neal threw for 120 yards. Thomas hit two milestones in the game, becoming the first Dragon to rush for 1,000 yards in four seasons, and also becoming the second to rush for 5,000 yards in his career.
Neal provided the fireworks early. On the game's first play, he hit Ty Mitchell in stride on a deep ball for a 65-yard touchdown.
G-C took that punch and drove to the Dragons' red zone. Two holding penalties - including one that took a potential touchdown off the board - set them up fourth-and-20. Caden Jacobia intercepted a pass deep in Dragon territory to snuff out the threat. The Dragons then marched 80 yards in 10 plays, with the big play being a 16-yard run by Thomas on third-and-18, setting up a fourth-and-2 conversion on the next play. Shortly thereafter, Neal found Mason Hiatt for a 36-yard pass that set up first-and-goal and an eventual 6-yard TD run by Thomas.
The Dragons forced a punt and got the ball back, but two penalties stalled the drive near midfield. G-C then took the ball 53 yards in eight plays to score. The extra point was missed. The teams traded possessions before halftime, but NP entered the break up 14-6.
The Dragons are next in action Sept. 29 at Kelso Stadium against Shelbyville for the 56th annual Homecoming game.
Week 6: New Palestine 21, Greenfield-Central 14
Friday, Sept. 22, 2023 at Clayton Myers Field, Greenfield
New Palestine (4-2, 4-0) 14 - 0 - 0 - 7 -- 21
Greenfield-Central (5-1, 3-1) 0 - 6 - 8 - 0 -- 14
NP-Mitchell 65 pass from Neal (Wells kick), 11:44
NP-Thomas 6 run (Wells kick), 2:33
G-C-Foley 3 run (run failed), 4:00
G-C-Foley 1 run (Freeman run), 6:02
NP-Thomas 1 run (Wells kick), 5:28
First downs: NP 15, G-C 23
Rushes-yards: NP 41-214, G-C 58-222
Passing C-A-I: NP 5-11-0, G-C 10-19-1
Passing yards: NP 120, G-C 105
Total plays-yards: NP 52-334, G-C 77-327
Penalties-yards: NP 5-50, G-C 6-55
Fumbles-lost: NP 0-0, G-C 2-1
Punts-avg: NP 2-39.5, G-C 1-51.0
Time of possession: NP 20:30, G-C 27:30
Rushing: Thomas 29-186, Neal 7-23, Kropp 3-9, team 2-(-4)
Passing: Neal 5-11-0-120
Receiving: Mitchell 3-75, Hiatt 2-45
Rushing: Foley 21-84, J.Hinton 14-66, Freeman 13-35, C.Hinton 7-17, VanOsdol 2-16, Willard 1-4
Passing: Freeman 10-18-1-105, team 0-1
Receiving: Knecht 4-41, Wadle 3-41, Willard 3-23