NEW PALESTINE — James Young broke through the line and saw no one in front of him.
Twelve years of playoff history chased after New Palestine’s junior running back. Young’s coach and Chatard defenders tried to catch him, but Young wasn’t going to be caught. Not tonight.
Class 4A No. 2 New Palestine defeated No. 4 Chatard 27-14 Friday night at Kelso Stadium, ending the Trojans’ streak of both 21 straight playoff victories and 12 consecutive regional titles.
The Dragons (13-0) set a new school record for wins in a season and claimed the program’s third regional crown, the last of which came in 1990, when NP felled Chatard 20-12.
New Palestine travels to No. 1 Columbus East Friday looking for its second semistate championship.
The hosts sprinted out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead Friday before the Trojans responded with 14 in the second frame to level the game at half.
The Red Rage defense suffocated Chatard in the second half, and New Palestine received a pair of field goals from a freshman kicker before Young’s’ 73-yard touchdown run with one minute and three seconds left in the game put the victory on ice.
New Palestine outgained the visitors 373-172, limited the Trojans to less than three yards per carry and held Chatard to its second-lowest point total of the season.
“They outplayed us in every phase of the game, no question,” said Chatard coach Vince Lorenzano, whose team suffered a postseason setback for the first time since Nov. 21, 2009.
A year after NP finished 3-7 — the program’s worst record in over a decade — the Dragons are one win away from their second State Finals berth.
“I think to sum this all up is just heart. We went into the meeting Monday and coach said, ‘These guys are a great team, but they’re beatable. Everybody’s beatable on any given Friday night,’” Dragon quarterback Blake Luker said. “We came out and took that to heart. We believed that we could win this game.”
With 1:14 left on the clock, New Palestine led 20-14 and faced a 3rd-and-6 from its own 27. With Chatard sporting just one timeout, a first down meant victory. Coming up short meant the Trojans could get one last chance.
The Dragons came up to the line in their customary shotgun spread formation. The team’s rookie coach, Kyle Ralph, noticed a quirk in Chatard’s alignment and flipped the off-tackle run from the left to the right. Luker handed off to Young, who was staring at 10 Trojan defenders within a few breaths of the line of scrimmage. A gap opened up, and the rest is history.
“He hit the hole, went vertical and that was it,” Ralph said. “End of story.”