RICHMOND — The New Palestine Dragons had a special victory Friday night at Richmond.
The special teams, that is.
The Dragons’ kicking game set the table in each half en route to a 42-6 victory over the Richmond Red Devils, giving third-ranked NP its 11th straight regular season win and a 2-0 record on the young season.
Senior Chaz Hill broke a fake punt 39 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, setting the stage for 28 points in the game’s first 13:05.
And, after Richmond opened the second half with a touchdown and a three-and-out and threatened to get back into the game, NP sophomore Adam Kincaid blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown that gave NP a 35-6 edge and put the game out of reach.
“Coach JD (Hill) has done a nice job with those units,” NP coach Kyle Ralph said. “We’ve taken some more gambles than in the past because we’ve had a lot more confidence in our guys. Practice-wise, they’ve been executing. I made sure to point that out to our guys after the game. That score in that game is nowhere near what it is if that first drive gets stopped. That momentum was huge in us having an explosive first quarter.
“Then, punch the ball right down our throats and score, and coming out of the lightning delay, all of a sudden, we block a punt on the next defensive series. It’s good to see some statistics coming from those guys, because a lot of the hidden yardage, you don’t talk about much.”
That hidden yardage coming from the kicking game significantly alterered starting field position. NP averaged starting on its own 40. Richmond averaged starting on its on 21, often due to kick coverage and returns.
NP had another explosive first quarter, scoring on its first four possessions to go up 28-0 just 65 seconds into the second quarter. After Hill’s TD on a fake punt – giving him two scores on two carries this year – Alex Neligh led a TD drive that saw two throws for 60 yards to Noah Grable, setting up a short scoring pass to Joe Izbicki. James Young then capped two more drives with 1-yard runs – one set up by an Izbicki interception at midfield, the other by a punt return by Duke Blackwell to the Richmond 33.
On the first, Blackwell had a 45-yard catch to set up the score to make it 21-0. Young had a 26-yard reception to set up the Dragons’ fourth TD. Young would add the exclamation point with a 9-yard run in the third quarter that made it 42-6, giving him back-to-back three-touchdown games. Young had 76 yards on 17 carries, leading a 165-yard rushing attack.
Neligh threw for 216 yards to six different receivers. Blackwell had 80 yards and Grable 74 on four catches each. The Dragons went to the aerial attack often to counter a Richmond defense that has two 300-pound defensive tackles, including Div. I prospect Nathon Trawick.
“We knew we were going to be tough sledding with a Div. I tackle who is probably the strongest weight room kid in the middle,” Ralph said. “We knew it would be tough to move him in the running game. Opposite him is another big strong, 300-pound tackle. It’s tough to move those guys. We had to open it up a little more to get the run game going, and if that’s what it takes, great. Ten yards is 10 yards, I don’t care how they come. Let’s keep the chains moving.”
The Dragons again had to move several players around, deal with a lightning delay, and see several players stepping up in different roles. While Izbicki, Noah Grable and Sterling Curran led a swarming defense that allowed just 29 rushing yards and had three sacks, several other players – among them Thaddeus Muse, Logan Greene, David Judy and Alex Barnes – made a number of key plays.
“Guys are doing really good things to help us win,” Ralph said. “That’s what it takes – it takes a good team effort to help us win against teams like Richmond that are a little deeper than us and a lot larger than us.”
The Dragons now get ready for conference play, with the opener next Friday at Kelso Stadium against a top-five Class 3A team in Yorktown, a matchup of the top two teams in the HHC from a year ago.
“We’ve played two very different teams,” Ralph said. “Big, strong, athletic tonight, Danville more quick and side to side. We play in a very good conference with good coaches and good teams, and good players. Our number one goal is to be confererence champions, We took the (HHC traveling) helmet from Yorktown last year, that’s going to be one of their No. 1 motivating factors in the offseason is to try to get it back from us. We have to play championship football. We have a long week to prepare ahead of us. I think it’s going to be exciting.”
New Palestine 42, Richmond 6
NP (2-0) 21 7 14 0 — 42
RI (1-1) 0 0 6 0 — 6
NP – Hill 39 run (Corey kick) 9:49
NP – Izbicki 4 pass from Neligh (Corey kick), 7:19
NP – Young 1 run (Corey kick), 1:23
NP – Young 1 run (Corey kick), 10:55
RI – Thalls 10 run (kick failed), 10:17
NP – Kincaid blocked punt recovery in end zone (Corey kick), 7:20
NP – Young 9 run (Corey kick), 5:08
First downs 16 14
Rushes-yards 33-165 37-29
Passing yards 216 140
Comp-Att-Int 14-24-1 13-22-1
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 4-1
Penalties-Yards 7-70 5-50
Rushing: Young 17-76 Hill 1-39, Brickens 3-27, Neligh 9-20, Curran 2-5, team 1-(-2) (NP); Holland 21-47, Christian 10-7, Thalls 2-7, Stanley 2-0, team 2-(-32) (RI)
Passing: Neligh 14-24-4 216 (NP); Thalls 8-13-0-73, Christian 5-9-1-67 (RI)
Receiving: Blackwell 4-82, Grable 4-74, Greene 2-32, Young 2-27, Luker 1-40, Izbicki 1-4 (NP), Brown 4-72, Ripperger 4-27, Mack 2-25, D.Davis 2-22, Daniels 2-7 (RI)