NEW PALESTINE — For the second week in a row the Class 5A No. 2 New Palestine Dragons found themselves in a bit of a battle after the end of the first quarter.
But starting with the first play in the second quarter, the Dragons put the pedal to the metal to defeat Shelbyville 66-21 and improve their record to 7-0 and 5-0 in the Hoosier Heritage Conference.
The game started inauspiciously for the Dragons, as a mishandled handoff led to a fumble recovery by the Golden Bears. The Dragons got the ball back and drove to the Shelbyville 3-yard line, but did not score as a fourth down pass fell short.
The Dragons got on the board near the end of the first quarter on a perfectly executed play-action pass by quarterback Zach Neligh to Colby Jenkins to take a 7-0 lead.
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The Golden Bears struck back on their very next play however, as quarterback Landon Watson found Damon Lux on a wheel route for a 62-yard touchdown of their own.
The second quarter belonged to the Dragons. Starting with the very first play of the frame. New Palestine scored 35 points in the quarter to build up a comfortable 42-14 halftime lead. Neligh ran in one of those scores and threw another to receiver Colby Jenkins.
Neligh finished with 135 yards rushing, 281 yards passing and four total touchdowns (1 running, 3 passing).
Sophomore running back Luke Canfield ran for three touchdowns in the second quarter. Canfield finished the game with five touchdowns and has now scored 22 touchdowns on the year.
Shelbyville put some more points on the board on two other drives in which sophomore quarterback Watson found receivers downfield. Watson connected with Lux again for a 30-yard touchdown in the second quarter and with senior wide receiver Luke Reed for a 13-yard touchdown pass early in the third.
Many nights in the HHC, Shelbyville’s offense would be good enough for a victory, but not against New Palestine.
At halftime, players from each decade of New Palestine’s 50-year football history were honored. For this year’s Dragons, two games remain between them and an undisputed conference championship for the fifth season in a row.
They take the field next week at home against HHC foe New Castle at 7:30 p.m.