Dragon offense rolls in home opener

NEW PALESTINE — The defending Class 4A state champions were all business Friday in the team’s first home game since defeating New Prairie 77-42 at Lucas Oil Stadium last November.

A packed Kelso Stadium saw Class 5A No. 1 New Palestine senior quarterback Alex Neligh run for one touchdown and throw for four more in a 72-7 win over Richmond, pushing his career total to 57, seven shy of Blake Luker’s record (64).

Neligh finished 17 for 25 for 225 yards. The Dragons totaled 368 total yards of offense in Week 1 and 689 Friday. Neligh finished with 406 by himself as he added 181 on the ground.

Neligh, an all-state selection last year, scored five touchdowns and had 229 yards of total offense in a win over Lawrenceburg (56-14) as the senior picked up right where he left off in 2014.

New Palestine beat the Richmond 42-6 last season and has now won five straight against the Red Devils. The win also keeps the state’s longest winning streak intact as New Palestine has won 17 straight contests and 20 in a row during the regular season — one shy of the school record set between 1984-86.

Richmond’s Jawuan Claiborne opened the game with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as the Red Devils took a 7-0 lead just 16 seconds into the game.

Neligh and the Dragons would answer with six touchdowns, 469 yards and 45 unanswered points the rest of the half to take a commanding 45-7 lead.

Neligh was nearly unstoppable in the opening half, finishing with 190 rushing yards and 172 passing yards.

Senior Nick Brickens added 89 yards on the ground and finished with 156, as receiver Logan Greene caught 106 yards through the air in the opening half.

The Red Devils managed only 48 yards in the first two quarters of play and finished with only two first downs the entire game.

After scoring twice early in the second half, with touchdowns by Duke Blackwell and Brickens, coach Kyle Ralph and the Dragons, holding a 59-7 lead, decided to sit numerous offensive and defensive starters midway through the third quarter.

Freshman Luke Ely took advantage and scored his first varsity touchdown on a 3-yard run with 1:10 left in the quarter.

He scored another in the fourth quarter with a 5-yard to give the Dragons a final 72-7 lead.

Greene also recorded an interception as the New Palestine defense forced Richmond into three turnovers.

Ralph is now 30-1 in his third season.

New Palestine will open up Hoosier Heritage Conference play next week with road game at Class 3A No. 10 Yorktown. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The Red Devils return home in week 3 to face Indianapolis Tech at 7 p.m.

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Kris Mills is a sports reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 317-477-3230 or kmills@greenfieldreporter.com.