Senior linebacker led New Palestine defense

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NEW PALESTINE — Kyle Ralph was looking for a few good young men, and on the first play of the 2013 football season, the New Palestine coach discovered a leader that would carry the team to one of the most prolific seasons in program history.

Ralph inherited an outfit coming off a 3-7 2012, and his first project was to rebuild the defense. The rookie head coach put his best athletes on the defensive side of the ball, and it paid immediate dividends: New Palestine opened the season with a 64-8 win at Danville, the first of nine games the Dragons allowed zero or one touchdowns during a 13-1, semistate runner-up campaign.

The example-setting heart and soul of the Red Rage defense was outside linebacker Brian Wagner, the Daily Reporter’s 2013 Hancock County Defensive Player of the Year — a standout since he lined up opposite the Danville offense on Aug. 23.

“I will never forget our first defensive play against Danville,” Ralph said. “They ran an inverted veer play we had worked on all week. It is very hard to stop, we run something similar and it had given Brian fits the entire preseason camp because it switches the OLB’s responsibility.

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