NEW PALESTINE — There’s no place like home for the New Palestine Dragons. Unbeaten at Kelso Stadium since 2013, the Class 5A second-ranked Dragons showed their appreciation Friday night.
The Dragons stormed Shepler Field from the opening possession and reigned victorious on Homecoming Night, defeating Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Greenfield-Central 84-21.
The victory marked New Palestine’s 19th against the Cougars (3-3, 1-3 HHC) since 1994 and sixth straight in the series. The Dragons (6-0, 4-0 HHC) haven’t dropped a homecoming game in eight straight years.
New Palestine’s regular-season win streak stretched to 24 by night’s end, but more importantly, the Dragons defended their home field for a 20th consecutive time.
“There’s a lot of pride. We haven’t lost here since I’ve been here, and our kids take that incredibly seriously,” New Palestine head coach Kyle Ralph prior to Friday’s game.
“No group wants to be the ones to lose the first home game. When we are at home, there’s a little bit more of an edge and intensity because it’s our job to protect our home field.”
With only three home games this season, the Dragons wasted no time taking advantage of their surroundings, scoring on their first six drives before halftime. They eventually tied the school record for points scored in a single game at 84 on 43 offensive plays.
“The way they play defense is obviously risky if it’s unsound. We thought we had an advantage,” Ralph said after the game. “We exposed them in all phases of the game and did what we wanted to do basically.
“When the kids execute like they did tonight, special things happen.”
A Gunnar Large 55-yard touchdown pass to Brett Luker on first-and-10 from their own 45 put the Dragons in complete control on the first series of the game. From there, the Dragons packed the stat sheet and gave other teams plenty of game film to study.
DuRon Ford finished the game with 234 yards and four touchdowns. Three of his tackle-breaking scores unfolded in the first half. He entered with a state-leading 17 touchdowns for New Palestine.
Ford’s touchdown runs measured 27, 2, 45 and 71 yards. It marked his fourth 200-plus yard performances in six weeks.
Large completed 7 of 15 pass attempts for 163 yards and three touchdowns. He added a rushing touchdown from two-yards out in the first half, which put New Palestine up 14-0.
Large connected with three different receivers, but found a rhythm with Brett Luker, who hauled in four catches for 95 yards and a pair of touchdown receptions.
Luker collected pass-and-catch strikes that measured 55 and 35 yards. Colby Jenkins had two receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown. Brady Walden added a 15-yard rushing touchdown late in the third quarter to put New Palestine up 70-14.
The Dragons offense scored on nine of their first 11 possessions before the varsity starters gave way to the reserves and freshman players. The defense released their rage, forcing four turnovers, including three fumble recoveries.
Adam Kincaid scooped up a pair of his team’s fumble recoveries, running both back for touchdowns and stifling any momentum by Greenfield-Central. His first return stretched 88 yards for the Red Rage’s fourth defensive touchdown this season.
He tacked on the unit’s fifth in the third quarter with a fumble recovery and return for 60 yards midway through the third quarter. Special teams fired on all cylinders as well as New Palestine recovered an onside kick, which turned into a 45-yard touchdown run by Ford late in the second quarter.
The Cougars responded on the ensuring series, putting together a 19-play scoring drive, covering 80 yards over 9:04. Andrew Leslie completed a 9-yard pass to Mike Hoskins to cut the deficit 49-14 just before halftime.
Leslie erased all doubt of a shutout in the first quarter, finding Orlando Mojica on a 77-yard touchdown pass down the sideline. Leslie had nine completions with two touchdowns.
Michael Sosnowski rushed for Greenfield-Central’s final touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He racked up 165 yards on 22 carries.