The New Palestine football team's run to the semistate ended in a buzzsaw Friday night, as the Class 4A No. 3 Dragons fell 49-0 to Class 4A No. 1 East Central.
The Trojans, who are seeking to win back-to-back state titles, continued their romp through their schedule, as they posted their seventh shutout of the season and handed the Dragons their largest loss in 16 years.
East Central used a powerful running game to take control, as three different backs ran for 100-plus yards. The Trojans used a double-wing offense to spring all three. With the Dragons' defense keying on Mr. Football candidate Josh Ringer, who ran for 109 yards and two touchdowns, EC sprung senior Dylan Maxwell, who ran for 258 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Fullback Ryan Minges added 104 yards and two scores.
The Dragons' offense struggled to get untracked, tallying 161 total yards. Kyler Kropp led the Dragons with 60 rushing yards and 71 yards from scrimmage. Grayson Thomas was held to 45 yards.
EC drew first blood. After forcing a three-and-out on the Dragons' first possession, the Trojans marched 86 yards in nine plays, with Ryan Brotherton, Ringer and Maxwell each tallying a 15-plus yard run in the drive, before Ringer finished ith with a 7-yard TD, his 51st of the season.
After a Dragons punt, the Red Rage stiffened and stuffed Ringer on 4th-and-3 for a turnover on downs, but the Dragons were unable to respond and punted again. A 59-yard run by Maxwell on the Trojans' next drive set up Ringer for a 1-yard score on the first play of the second quarter to put the Trojans up 14-0.
The game's big turning point came on the next possession. The Dragons mixed runs to Thomas, Kropp and Gavin Neal with a couple of timely pass completions to move the chains four times on a 17-play drive and march to the EC 25. However, the drive stalled there and NP turned the ball over on downs. On the next play, Maxwell took a pitch around end for a 78-yard TD that put EC up 21-0. Maxwell scored again on a 7-yard run at the end of the half, capping a 55-yard drive he set up with a 23-yard run.
In the third quarter, the Red Rage forced a turnover, as Michael Thacker recovered a fumble on the EC 32, but the Dragons were unable to move the chains. EC followed with a 14-play, 77-yard drive to trigger the running clock with 2:01 to go in the third.
Again, the Dragons drove into EC territory, with Kropp running a fake punt 27 yards, then taking the ball around left end for 19 yards to move the chains. But a holding penalty put the Dragons behind the chains and the drive stalled. Minges then broke off a 63-yard TD run to add a late score for EC. The Trojans scored again when the Dragons fumbled the ensuing kickoff.
While the Dragons fell in the semistate, it marked another outstanding season for the program, which won its first regional title in four years and went 11-3. The Dragons repeated as conference champions and won their third straight sectional. Thomas graduates second on the career rushing yards (6,202) and touchdowns (93) lists. He also is second all-time in yards from scrimmage (6,317) and points (544) and third in single-season rushing yards (2,304). Kropp finishes his career fifth on the career receptions (86) and receiving yards (1,370) lists.
The Dragons' senior class graduates with a four-year record of 39-10, with two conference titles, three sectional titles and a regional championship.
IHSAA Class 4A semistate: East Central 49, New Palestine 0
Friday, Nov. 17, 2023 at East Central HS, St. Leon
New Palestine (11-3). 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 -- 0
East Central (14-0) 7 - 21 - 7 - 14 -- 49
EC-Ringer 7 run (McFee kick), 6:52
EC-Ringer 1 run (McFee kick), 11:55
EC-Maxwell 78 run (McFee kick), 4:14
EC-Maxwell 7 run (McFee kick), :24
EC-Minges 5 run (McFee kick), 2:01
EC-Minges 63 run (McFee kick), 2:16
EC-Sebastian 15 fumble return (McFee kick), 1:05
First downs: NP 7, EC 22
Rushes-yards: NP 32-126, EC 47-487
Passing C-A-I: NP 6-16-0, EC 0-1-0
Passing yards: NP 35, EC 0
Total plays-yards: NP 48-161, EC 48-487
Penalties-yards: NP 2-15, EC 2-20
Fumbles-lost: NP 1-1, EC 1-1
Punts-avg: NP 4-38.5, EC 0-0
Time of possession: NP 27:11, EC 20:49
Rushing: Kropp 6-60, Thomas 18-45, Neal 8-21
Passing: Neal 6-16-0-35
Receiving: Kropp 3-11, Hiatt 2-19, Clark 1-5
Rushing: Maxwell 14-258, Ringer 21-109, Minges 9-104, Brotherton 3-27, team 0-(-11)
Passing: Burton 0-1-0
(Photo credit: Aaron Smith)