NEW PALESTINE — The names might change for the New Palestine Dragons, but the results looked familiar for the crowd Friday at Kelso Stadium, which saw New Palestine score 27 second-quarter points en route to a 61-7 victory against Richmond.
New Palestine sophomore Luke Canfield rushed for 277 yards and four touchdowns, while junior quarterback Zach Neligh threw for 155 yards and three scores — all to junior wideout Colby Jenkins — in the victory.
The Dragons’ offense started slowly, turning the ball over on downs on the first two drives despite starting in Richmond territory, but took off from there.
New Palestine began rolling off big plays, scoring on five consecutive possessions. A swing pass from Neligh to Jenkins got the ball rolling, setting up the first of Canfield’s four scores, midway through the first.
“As young as we are, you’ve got to develop a little bit of rhythm and confidence, especially on offense,” New Palestine coach Kyle Ralph said. “On offense, you’ve got to have a rhythm going. For young kids, it takes some time. We started a new sophomore at right tackle — replacing a sophomore who started last week — it takes time for the line to gel.
“About drive three, we really settled in, we communicated well with those kids on the sidelines, we got them to understand what was happening in front of them. Once we did that, things really took off for us.”
Canfield added a 12-yard run to end the first quarter as turnovers set up both of the Dragons’ first two scores. Maxen Hook had an interception and Kade Large a fumble recovery, with the New Palestine defense setting the tone early.
A 28-yard TD pass to Jenkins gave New Palestine a 21-0 lead, and Canfield followed with the dagger — a 75-yard sweep up the right sideline that broke the game open.
“One thing we talk to our guys a lot in the running back drills. If the linemen take care of their fie and the quarterback takes care of his read, and they’re all blocked out, there should be one player to beat,” Ralph said. “Luke did a great job of pushing the edges, pushing the seams, breaking tackles, beating the defender.”
The Dragons’ offense tallied 539 yards of total offense, with 374 of those coming on the ground. Jenkins had a big day in the passing game, with five catches for 71 yards and and three scores, and a 34-yard TD run in the third quarter.
“He’s a tremendous player, a tremendous athlete, great kid, hard worker,” Ralph said of Jenkins. “He’s always one of those kids who really is a super-talented player but has lived in the shadow of some great receivers before him. He’s been a spot guy that we can put a mismatch on, but now, his challenge was to be the feature guy in that passing game and be that physical blocker because he is so strong and explosive.”
The Dragons are now 2-0 on the season after beating Whiteland and Richmond. New Palestine’s defense has set the tone, allowing two scores in two games. They open conference play next Friday at Yorktown.
“I’m not sure if you’re going to see two better preparation games for us,” Ralph said. “Whiteland is big, strong, physical. Their offense is very unique. We came out and played very well.
‘Tonight, I’m not sure you’re going to find an offensive line bigger unless you go to Lucas Oil. To deal with that amount of size, I thought our run defense was superb tonight against those kids.”