Dragons start title defense strong

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For the Daily Reporter

KOKOMO — Kokomo’s game plan was to take away New Palestine’s running game, led by Charlie Spegel, who rushed for more than 3,300 yards last season.

Dragons junior quarterback Lincoln Roth loosened things up by throwing for two touchdowns in the first quarter.

Spegel rushed for 186 yards on 16 carries and four touchdowns, all in the first half, to lead the Class 5A No. 1 Dragons to a 63-13 rout of Kokomo in Friday night’s season high school football opener.

“It’s great when you have a quarterback who can throw and receivers that can catch the ball,” Spegel said. “They have to cover both run and pass. They fill the box in and we pass it. Then the passing game gets hot, it opens up the run.’’

The defending 5A state champion Dragons dominated throughout, leading 28-0 after the first quarter and 56-0 at halftime. The second half was played with a running clock with the new Indiana High School Athletic Association mercy rule going into effect when a team leads in the second half by 35 points or more. New Palestine starters didn’t play in the second half.

Spegel scored touchdowns on runs of 11, 7, 8 and 8 yards.

“For having not that many carries in half a football game, it was a pretty good night at the office,” Dragons coach Kyle Ralph said.

There were some issues offensively, however, Ralph said.

“We put the ball on the turf a couple times, which is inexcusable,” Ralph said. “We had a turnover, which you flat out can’t have when you know what is coming down next week (at Center Grove). We have to do a lot of things better, but for an opening night when you don’t know exactly what you are going to get, it’s not a bad performance overall.”

Roth completed 8 of 10 passes for 134 yards with TD passes of 19 yards to Maxen Hook, 19 to Eric Roudebush and 12 to Blake Austin.

“He threw the ball well when he put in in the air,” Ralph said. “He executed the passes we called really well. He has to be more protective and cautious of the football at times.”

Roth lost one fumble and there were a couple snafus on handoffs.

“We had some missed blocks that didn’t help him at all. I like some cleaner play from the guys up front to ease breaking in a new quarterback,” Ralph said. “But we’re breaking in two new offensive linemen as well. They put some good pressure on us at times, which forced us into mistakes here and there. We’ve got to better on offense execution-wise, physicality-wise and mental preparation.”

The other first half touchdown came on Brody Luker’s 36-yard interception return for a score.

In the fourth quarter, Dragons second string QB Madix Johnson scored from 5 yards out to push the lead to 63-7.

The Dragons’ defense were dominant against the Wildkats.

“We did well with the pressure, we brought the blitzes with those guys and trying to come after their weaker spots in their offensive line,” Ralph said. “Richard Clevenger in his first start at linebacker had two sacks.”

Senior linebacker Aven Jones also had two sacks and senior tackle Kyle King added one sack. Clevenger, a junior, led the Dragons with four solo and three assisted tackles.

The Wildkats had just 22 total yards at halftime and one first down.

Kokomo scored on a 10-yard pass from Andres Begne to Noa Wainscott in the third quarter and 64-pass from Evan Barker to Patrick Hardemon in the fourth quarter.