There’s been an awful lot riding on the past two New Palestine/Greenfield-Central clashes:
Oct. 29, 2010: The Cougars stun the visiting Dragons 7-0 in the sectional semifinals, ending NP’s nine-game winning streak and avenging a 32-0 home defeat to the red-and-white three weeks earlier.
Oct. 7, 2011: Class 4A No. 1 New Palestine squeaks by host Greenfield-Central 21-19 to keep its undefeated season alive and knock the Cougars out of the Hoosier Heritage Conference title race.
With both NP (2-5, 1-4 HHC) and G-C (3-4, 2-3 HHC) struggling in 2012, pride and Hancock County bragging rights will be the only things on the line at 7:30 p.m. Friday night in Kelso Stadium.
In a season rife with setbacks, the past two weeks have been particularly painful for NP.
Sept. 21 against Yorktown, the Dragons saw their 13-game home winning streak end after the hosts allowed a game-winning 14-play, 94-yard TD drive.
Last Friday, NP entered the fourth quarter with a 13-10 advantage over Shelbyville before being blanked in the final frame and losing 17-13.
Ball security remains a storyline for the Dragons, who can’t seem to shake their propensity to fumble the football. In fact, they’ve lost the handle on the pigskin 12 times this season after coughing up the ball just twice in 2011.
Interim NP coach Charlie Hill remains optimistic not only about his team’s chances against Greenfield, but also for his team’s regular-season finale against 4A No. 9 Mt. Vernon (5-1) on Oct. 12.
“The oddest thing of all this is if we take care of turnovers, we win both of those football games. We have to make something positive happen with the county games with Greenfield and Mt. Vernon,” Charlie Hill explained. “Our plan is to execute better with what we’ve struggled with and do damage in the sectional.”
Hill is unsure if the team’s starting quarterback, Blake Luker, will be available against the Cougars. Luker left the game in the third quarter against Shelbyville after Luker smashed his right hand into a helmet following through on a throw, then had the hand “mashed” between a helmet and shoulder pads.
If Luker is unavailable, look for sophomore Chaz Hill, who filled in for Luker last Friday and completed five passes for 62 yards, to get the starting nod.
“Both teams will be excited, both will have some points to prove,” Hill explained. “The best team will be left standing at the end.”
As for Greenfield-Central, it’s looking for a better go-around versus New Palestine than it had in Week 7 against Mt. Vernon.
The Marauders steamrolled their way to 442 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, fueling a 54-13 victory.