SHELBYVILLE — Turnovers and a subpar running attack for the New Palestine Dragons proved to be too much as the Shelbyville Golden Bears scored the game’s final 14 points to win 17-13 at J.M. McKeand Stadium.
During the first quarter, both teams proved this was going to be a defensive battle as each team forced two punts from the opposing offense.
NP struggled early and often in the first half with turnovers.
After both teams produced two punts each during the first quarter, a fumble on their final first quarter possession started a string of three turnovers in as many drives for the Dragons.
“It’s just to the point where it is ridiculous anymore,” NP coach Charlie Hill said. “We can’t turn it over in the beginning like that and put ourselves in the hole.”
The third was a fumble by Matt Siergiej that led to Shelbyville taking a 3-0 lead on a 20-yard field goal.
Siergiej and the rest of the NP rushing attack were shut down by the defense as the Golden Bears held them to a season-low 53 yards rushing.
“In my opinion it was on our running backs,” Siergiej said. “Our line gave us big holes…it was just the running backs tonight, the line did a great job.”
Hill agreed with Siergiej’s analysis of the ground game.
“I don’t think we ran hard enough,” Hill said. “We didn’t consistently run the ball, we didn’t break any long runs.”
The Dragon offense battled back to close the half to take a three-point lead.
Quarterback Blake Luker found Scott Lyons on back-to-back first down pass plays to get the Dragons inside the 20-yard line. Luker then took to the ground, gaining 9 yards on a run. That was followed by an incomplete pass and third and short stop by the Golden Bears.
On fourth and short, Luker used a hard count to draw the defense offsides, giving NP the first down on the penalty. Luker found Lyons again, this time for a touchdown. The extra point try failed, but NP was up 6-3 at the half.
New Pal came out fast to start the third quarter as they 13-3 lead on a two play, 36 seconds scoring drive.
On his only carry of the game, Collin Hill ran for a 27-yard gain that set up another Luker to Lyons touchdown toss, this one for 31 yards.
NP held Shelbyville on the next two series and forced them to punt, which put the NP offense on its own 9-yard line.
Back-to-back first downs gave the Dragons a little breathing room. In what may have been the play of the game for the Shelbyville defense, Luker fumbled the ball on first down, which the defense recovered to set up the Golden Bear offense a short field.
“We thought we had them under control,” Hill said of his defense forcing two punts in the last two series. “We give them the football…on the fumble and that leads to the easy score and puts us in a compromise deal.”
On the fumble, Luker injured his right hand and was forced to leave the game.
“I stepped up in the pocket, threw the ball and hit somebody’s helmet and it got smashed,” Luker said. “It was a freak accident.”
When Luker left the game he had completed 11 of his 13 attempts and connected for two touchdown passes. Sophomore Chaz Hill replaced him for the remainder of the game.
In the fourth quarter, the Shelbyville offense put together a drive that took up nearly four minutes of the clock and ended with a 6-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Jeremy Laker to give them a 17-13 lead.
“The other drive they earned by running it down the field,” Hill said. “We got soft and sloppy with our tackles and that was the score that turned the lead to a trail.”
With two and a half minutes on the clock NP took procession at its 39-yard line. Chaz Hill started off the drive with back-to-back incomplete passes then connected on his next five.
During the drive NP converted two fourth downs to keep the assault alive.
The second conversion came on a Chaz Hill to Tyler Walden 25-yard pass to get the Dragons to the Golden Bears’ 15-yard line. On first down, Chaz Hill hit Lyons for a 7-yard pass to get inside the 10.
The Dragons’ rally ended on the 8-yard line when the next three passes fell incomplete to turn the ball back over to Shelbyville, which lined up in the victory formation to end the game.
“He (Chaz Hill) sure didn’t expect to be doing that tonight,” Hill said. “To his credit he rallied up and rose to the occasion.”
Shelbyville 17, New Palestine 13
NP (2-5, 1-4 HHC) 0 6 7 0 — 13
SH (3-4, 3-2 HHC) 0 3 7 7 — 17
SH — Booth, 20-yard field goal, 2:53
NP — Lyons, 5-yard pass from Luker (kick failed), 1:00
NP — Lyons, 31-yard pass from Luker (Cochran kick), 11:23
SH — Laker, 18-yard run (Booth kick), 3:50
SH — Laker, 6-yard run (Booth kick), 2:32
First downs 7 6
Rushes-yards 19-53 36-119
Passing yards 179 92
Comp-Att-Int 17-26-1 10-24-2
Fumbles-Lost 3-3 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-20 6-50
Rushing: Co. Hill 1-27, Siergiej 11-17, Guedel 1-4, Luker 4-(-7), Curran 1-12 (NP); Price 11-19, Uhls 4-17, Laker 18-71, Speece 3-12 (SH)
Passing: Luker 11-13-118, Ch. Hill 6-12-61, Siergiej 0-1-0 (NP); Laker 10-23-92, Hasecuster 0-1-0 (SH)
Receiving: Walden 7-57, S. Lyons 5-77, Guedel 1-1, Wagner 1-10, Co Hill 2-24, Wiggins 1-10,(NP); Uhls 5-33, Orem 4-48, Speece 1-4, Hicks 1-5 (SH)