NEW PALESTINE — The last two Hoosier Heritage Conference football championship programs took the final step toward the 2013 regular season with scrimmages on Friday.
At Speedway, defending HHC champion Mt. Vernon was less than impressive, according to its coach. At New Palestine, the host Dragons scrimmaged against Scecina and looked closer to their 2011 conference title, 11-1 form than to last year’s 3-7 incarnation.
An official score isn’t kept in the preseason exhibitions, in which each team gets a predetermined number of plays from various yard lines during five total possessions. But class 4A New Palestine’s varsity unit outscored the 2A Crusaders three touchdowns to one, with the Dragons’ Nick Brickens and Gabe Estes punching in rushing scores and Tyler Walden pulling in a touchdown reception from starting quarterback Blake Luker. Nolan Hill also looked strong running the ball for NP.
It was the New Palestine defensive that was particularly impressive to first-year head coach Kyle Ralph. The Dragons finished with 10 sacks, led by Noah Grable’s trifecta. Sterling Curran had a pair of pass deflections and a sack, and Estes, Brian Wagner and Ben Buchanan were among a handful of other Dragons who added pressure on the Scecina quarterbacks.
“I’m very pleased with where we’re at right now on defense,” said Ralph, a former offensive lineman at the University of North Carolina and assistant high school coach in Ohio. “Guys played hard, ran around and had fun.
“When I first interviewed up here, I did a lot of research and read all about the Red Rage and what it means to be a Red Rage defensive player. That’s a staple of what they’ve done here and I talked to the kids in the locker room today about coming out and showing me what it really means.