The Dragons football team returns to Kelso Stadium this week for the 56th annual homecoming game against Shelbyville. The Dragons enter with a 4-0 conference mark.
Shelbyville Golden Bears (3-3, 1-3 HHC) at 4A #4/7 New Palestine Dragons (4-2, 4-0 HHC)
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Kelso Stadium
Tickets; $6, cash at gate or https://public.eventlink.com/tickets?t=54053
Promotions: Homecoming festivities, king & queen crowning at halftime
Audio: NewPalRadio.com (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Video ($): IHSAAtv.org (coverage begins at 6:55 p.m.)
SETTING THE SCENE
It’s the 56th annual homecoming game as the Dragons welcome Shelbyville. The Dragons have won 14 consecutive homecoming contests dating to 2009.
This is the 28th meeting between the Dragons and Golden Bears. NP has an 18-9 overall record in the series and has won 10 straight and 13 of the last 14 meetings. Under coach Kyle Ralph, the Dragons have outscored Shelbyville by an average of 59-5 and have shut out the Golden Bears in four consecutive meetings. Last year, the Dragons won 56-0 behind 138 rushing yards and three touchdowns from Grayson Thomas.
The Dragons moved up two spots in the IFCA poll this week to No. 4. In the AP poll, they moved up three spots to No. 7.
This is the Dragons’ first game this season against a team that is not receiving poll votes.
Senior Grayson Thomas etched his name into the New Palestine record book last week, becoming the only player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in four seasons. He now has 1,158 yards this season after rushing for 186 on 29 carries against Greenfield-Central.
Thomas also broke the 5,000-yard mark for his career in both rushing and yards from scrimmage last week, while scoring his 71st career touchdown. He is second on all three lists to Charlie Spegal, the state’s all-time leading rusher.
The Dragons opened the game with a bang in last week’s 21-14 victory over Greenfield-Central, as Gavin Neal hit Ty Mitchell for a 65-yard touchdown pass on the game’s first play. It marked the second straight week the Dragons have scored in the game’s first 20 seconds. Against Pendleton Heights, Kyler Kropp ran the opening kickoff 89 yards for a score.
The Red Rage came up big in the fourth quarter, forcing two fourth-down stops in Dragon territory, setting up an 11-play, 52-yard winning march that ended in Thomas’ second rushing TD of the night.
Thomas has posted five of the top 11 rushing games of his career this season. Last week, he tallied 186 yards on 29 carries, the 10th-highest total of his career. In Week 5 against PH, he had 192 yards on 31 carries, the seventh-highest total of his career. That came a week after rushing for a career-high 285 yards againt Mt. Vernon, also on 31 carries.
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 11 turnovers in the last four games.
SCOUTING THE GOLDEN BEARS
Shelbyville is enjoying its best start since 2017. A veteran Golden Bears team is led by senior QB Eli Chappelow, who is throwing for 197 yards per game and completing 54% of his passes. His favorite targets are senior Luke Brinkman (31-502, 5 TDs), senior Axel Conover (29-287, 2 TDs) and freshman Grantland Fitzgerald (13-206, 3 TDs). Sophomore Donavon Martin leads the Bears with 254 rushing yards.
Shelbyville fell 42-19 to Yorktown last week. Chappelow threw for 162 yards and two TDs, with Fitzgerald tallying 66 receiving yards and Brinkman 62.
The Golden Bears have dropped back-to-back games after a 3-1 start.
The Dragons conclude the home portion of their schedule next week with Senior Night against New Castle. 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).
Photo: Aaron Smith