New Pal state finals notebook

Gearing up

“They don’t know what you’ve sacrificed,” a coach shouted to pump up players moments before game time.

As they stood in a tunnel waiting to take the field, team managers and trainers craned their necks to see over the shoulders of players to watch an IHSAA video detailing the team’s accomplishments this season.

Fans of all ages

Perhaps the youngest fan in the house Friday night was Bennett Palmer, a 6-month-old who sported a football onesie and a smile to cheer on the Dragons alongside mom Ashley Palmer.

Palmer grew up in New Palestine and said she couldn’t resist the chance to cheer on the home team. Bennett, a bit less invested, managed a nap in the first quarter despite the roar of screaming fans.

Slow but steady

Running on concrete in metal cleats leads to falls, as coaches know well. Nerves seemed to get the better of these youngsters, and as players excitedly jogged past their coaches en route to the field, shouts of “slow down” and “don’t fall” could be heard.

touch of nostalgia

James Hough dusted off his 26-year-old varsity letterman’s jacket just for the big game. The 1989 graduate of New Palestine High School said he wanted to come support his alma mater alongside his friends and neighbors.

“It’s just exciting to see the excitement this brings our little town,” he said.

SEEING RED

As the Dragons took the field for a few minutes of practice, a Lucas Oil Stadium event staffer standing along the sidelines shook his head. Teams sporting red had been losing all day, he remarked. He hoped the night’s final game would be different.

Show of support

New Pal wide receiver Brady Walden clapped quarterback Alex Neligh on the shoulder after Fort Wayne Snider scored its second touchdown — a sign of encouragement in a discouraging moment.

FILLING THE STANDS

New Pal fans more than doubled the crowd that turned out to support Fort Wayne Snider. At the most key moments, these fans, dressed in red, rose to their feet with thunderous applause. Equally loud were the sighs of exasperation.