It might be the midway point of the regular season, but the Class 5A No. 2 New Palestine Dragons already are in postseason form.
The unbeaten Dragons continue to surge past the competition behind their relentless offense and defense and are preparing to continue that trend tonight on the road at rival Greenfield-Central.
At a perfect 5-0, the Dragons are looking for their 101st Hoosier Heritage Conference victory all time and seventh straight against the host Cougars.
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Greenfield-Central is riding a two-game losing streak, but regardless of records, the Cougars plan to defend their turf in an attempt to seize the coveted traveling HHC helmet trophy.
At Mt. Vernon, the host Marauders are coming off a gritty 31-26 win against rival Delta and face another tough HHC foe in Pendleton Heights, which enters the week second in the conference at 2-1.
The Marauders are 1-2 in HHC play and could climb the standings with a second straight conference victory.
Eastern Hancock hops on a bus to travel to North Decatur where they bring with them a four-game winning streak and the program’s all-time career-passing record holder in quarterback Jarett Lewis. The host Chargers have lost three straight.
New Palestine (5-0) at Greenfield-Central (2-3)
GAME TIME: 7:30 p.m. at Cougar Stadium.
COACHES: Kyle Ralph, 55-3 in 5th year at New Palestine. Adam Sherman, 8-8 in 2nd year at Greenfield-Central.
LAST OUTING: New Palestine defeated Pendleton Heights, 41-21. Greenfield-Central lost to Shelbyville, 41-14.
SERIES LAST 30 YEARS: New Palestine, 19-5.
LAST MEETING: New Palestine, 84-21, Sep. 23, 2016.
BREAKDOWN: The New Palestine Dragons are looking to complete the county sweep as they travel to Greenfield-Central tonight. The Class 5A No. 2 Dragons already defeated county foe Mt. Vernon 47-3 two weeks ago in their Hoosier Heritage Conference meeting.
A win tonight would secure New Palestine’s 101st HHC win in school history and 31st consecutive conference victory. The Dragons lead the series with the Cougars 19-5 and have won six straight, including 13 of the past 15 matchups.
A big reason for their 5-0 record is the running game, especially sophomore running back Luke Canfield, who posted a 300-yard game last week against Pendleton Heights. He finished with 305 yards, the most in a single game since Chris Grider’s school-record 336 yards in 2002.
The Red Rage defense held Pendleton Heights to negative rushing yards, the second straight week the unit has locked down the opposition.
The Cougars will look to counter with a balanced attack from quarterback Andrew Leslie, who is nearly averaging 200 yards passing per game, and running back Braden Brown, who is logging nearly 100 yards every week.
Pendleton Heights (4-1) at Mt. Vernon (2-3)
GAME TIME: 7:30 p.m. at Mt. Vernon.
COACHES: Jed Richman, 7-9 in 2nd year at Pendleton Heights, 42-39 in 8th year overall. Neil Kazmierczak, 2-3 in 1st year at Mt. Vernon, 13-14 in 3rd year overall.
LAST OUTING: Pendleton Heights lost to New Palestine, 41-21. Mt. Vernon defeated Delta, 31-26.
SERIES LAST 30 YEARS: Mt. Vernon, 18-17.
LAST MEETING: Mt. Vernon, 13-0, Oct. 28, 2016, sectional.
BREAKDOWN: The Mt. Vernon Marauders were a different team last week. After several frustrating Fridays, including a three-game losing streak, the Marauders hit their stride to upend rival Delta and score some revenge for last year’s sectional championship loss.
Tyson Harley passed for 244 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another. The running game posted 66 yards with Brian Robinson leading the way with 46. Justice Hill had 31 yards and a touchdown.
Braxton Trittipo hauled in seven receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown, while Cam Cole had the longest catch at 53 yards and a touchdown.
The defense racked up three sacks, an interception by Ashton Lewis, and Trevor Bond converted 1 of 2 field goal attempts, nailing a 30-yarder as Mt. Vernon scored in every quarter.
The Marauders are hoping to bring the same efficiency to their home field, once again, against the visiting Pendleton Heights Arabians, who were humbled by New Palestine last week.
The Arabians will challenge with their trio of weapons in running back Evan Douglas (120.0 rushing yards per game), quarterback Christian Conkling (153.6 yards passing per game) and standout wide receiver Eli Pancol.
Eastern Hancock (4-1) at North Decatur (2-3)
GAME TIME: 7 p.m. at Kaelin Field.
COACHES: Jim O’Hara, 29-11 in 4th year at Eastern Hancock, 116-59 in 16th year overall. Steve Stirn, 16-12 in 3rd year at North Decatur, 103-61 in 15th year overall.
LAST OUTING: Eastern Hancock defeated Knightstown, 28-14. North Decatur lost to Milan, 41-21.
SERIES LAST 30 YEARS: North Decatur, 7-6.
LAST MEETING: Eastern Hancock, 41-8, Sep. 23, 2016.
BREAKDOWN: After losing Spencer Maxwell to injury, the Eastern Hancock Royals were looking for a spark. They found it in sophomore running back Victor Olivo.
Against Broad Ripple two weeks ago, Olivo broke off 151 yards on 15 carries for his first 100-plus yard game. He followed up the performance with 118 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against rival Knightstown last Friday.
An additional threat out of the backfield for the Royals, Olivo forces defenses to be honest while quarterback Jarett Lewis continues to build upon his record-setting legacy.
Lewis currently holds every career passing record in Eastern Hancock football history and has thrown for 12 touchdowns with 725 yards this season. A.J. Muegge leads the team with 231 yards receiving and three touchdowns. He also has 244 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
North Decatur is winless in their last three games, but is still averaging 25.8 points per game. Ethan Herbert leads the team with 349 yards rushing and the Chargers have four players with 100 yards rushing or more.
The Chargers have 12 rushing touchdowns, while quarterback Evan Smith has passed for 599 yards and seven touchdowns.