NEW PALESTINE — New Palestine’s football team doesn’t take much time to get its work accomplished.
For the second straight year, Danville found that out the hard way.
The Dragons scored early and often, beating the Danville Warriors 61-0 in Friday’s season opener at Kelso Stadium.
Seven of NP’s nine touchdown drives took less than two minutes – and the other two were completed in less than three and a half. Six different Dragons reached the end zone in the victory.
And the Dragons did it despite having a number of players limited due to a number of what coach Kyle Ralph called “bizarre issues” – non-football injuries and tweaks that forced him to juggle the roster often during the week.
“We had a lot of things go on that were out of our control that weren’t even football injuries that got some of our kids. Once we got the news, we put a new player in there and had him step up,” Ralph said. “We had a lot of guys do a lot of good things tonight. We had some young kids step up that haven’t played varsity football on a main level yet step up and do some good things tonight. I’m proud of the kids who stepped up and did a great job.”
NP’s young offensive line – underclassmen David Judy, Michael Woodall, Andrew Yazel, Nick Derheimer and Matt Moeller – helped the Dragons gain 418 first-half yards.
Junior quarterback Alex Neligh shone in his first game as the Dragons’ starter, rushing for 100 yards and a score, and completing 10-of-15 passes for 185 yards and a TD. His 41-yard TD run saw him break multiple tackles on the way to the end zone.
Neligh’s favorite targets in the passing game were junior Duke Blackwell – who had five catches for 116 yards in the first half – and senior Noah Grable, who caught three passes for 59 yards and a score.
“Alex showed tonight that he is capable of being a dynamic player with his arm and with his legs,” Ralph said.
The Dragons spread their 304 rushing yards around amongst several backs – James Young had 68 and three first-half scores. Sterling Curran carried five times on the opening drive – capping it off with a TD – and ran for two TDs. Nick Brickens had 31 yards and a touchdown run where he spun out of a tackle and into the end zone.
Backup quarterback Chaz Hill came in and broke a 44-yard TD run on his only carry – one that saw him break a tackle at the line, and then run through another at the goal line to get into the end zone.
Hill also had an interception and recovered an onside kick in the win.
NP had a strong offseason in the weight room, and showed it Friday night. They repeatedly broke, bowled over and ran through would-be tacklers.
“We don’t lift weights for nothing. Those guys did a tremendous job in the offseason,” Ralph said, noting a high number of offseason awards given to players before the game. “You get out to see a different team, visually see what they look like and physically be able to hit them, and you can feel that weight rom strength take over as you go, it gives you tremendous confidence to get those extra yards, run through blocks, run through tackles. I’m really pleased we’re able to transfer that weight room strength onto the field.”
It didn’t take long to get started. NP took the opening kickoff and marched 60 yards in six plays, with Curran carrying five times for 53 yards on the drive and the score. The Dragons added two more scores in the opening quarter – a 92-second, 55-yard drive keyed by a 19-yard pass to Duke Blackwell, and a 65-second drive keyed by a 41-yard pass to Blackwell. Both ended in TD runs by Young that made it 21-0. NP’s Chaz Hill then recovered an on-side kick, and the Dragons took nine plays to grind out a 48-yard drive, with Young capping it off from two yards out.
After forcing back-to-back three-and-outs – Danville only gained one first down in the opening half, via penalty – the Dragons needed just four plays and 61 seconds to score 14 more points – a 27-yard pass to a wide-open Grable made it 34-0 with 7:40 to go in the quarter, and a 41-yard run by Neligh with 6:08 left, both capping 2-play drives. A two-minute drill score led to Curran’s second TD and a 47-0 halftime lead.
Meanwhile, the Dragon defense was stifling, allowing just five first-half yards and pitching its first shutout in a season opener since beating Tri 32-0 in 1989.
“It’s a great feeling, because our backups and some JV kids sealed it for us,” Ralph said. “Last year, we had them down 64-0 and on the first play of the fourth quarter, we fully subbed our JV kids in and had gave up a 60-plus yard TD run. There was a thought in the back of our varsity guys’ minds, that we don’t want that to happen again. Our young kids did a good job of preparing this week and playing some good football and getting the shutout. It’s tough to shut out a team like them that does so many different things on offense.”
The Dragons travel to Richmond next Friday.
New Palestine 61, Danville 0
DV (0-1) 0 0 0 0 — 0
NP (1-0) 21 26 7 7 — 61
NP — Curran 1 run (Corey kick), 9:44.
NP — Young 1 run (Corey kick), 4:12.
NP — Young 5 run (Corey kick), :42.
NP — Young 2 run (Corey kick), 9:29.
NP — Grable 27 pass from Neligh (kick blocked), 7:40.
NP — Neligh 41 run (Barton kick), 6:08.
NP — Curran 1 run (kick failed), :14.
NP — Brickens 21 run (Corey kick), 6:34.
NP — Hill 44 run (Corey kick), 10:31.
First downs 9 20
Rushes-yards 39-60 42-304
Passing yards 49 185
Comp-Att-Int 7-21-1 10-19-0
Fumbles-Lost 6-2 1-1
Penalties-Yards 3-40 9-70
Rushing: Shirrell 11-45, Jones 9-23, Gilliam 3-5, Boyd 2-4, Schubert 2-1, Schabel 12-(-16) (DV). Neligh 10-100, Young 16-68, Curran 8-67, Brickens 5-31, Hill 1-44, Large 1-4, Merriman 1-(-8) (NP)
Passing: Schabel 7-21-1-49 (D). Neligh 10-18-0-185, Large 0-1-0-0 (NP)
Receiving: Schubert 5-35, Hubbard 1-18, Gilliam 1-(-4) (DV). Blackwell 5-116, Grable 3-59, Wilcher 1-7, Kincaid 1-3 (NP).