Dragons’ running game steals the show in HHC win over Cougars

New Palestine’s Blaine Nunnally breaks from an attempted tackle by Greenfield-Central’s Hudson McGuire at Greenfield-Central on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (Richard Sitler/Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield-Central Cougars unveiled a new dimension to their offense in quarterback Rashawn Street on Friday night, but the New Palestine Dragons still do what they do best.

Dragons’ sophomore Grayson Thomas rushed for 141 yards and three touchdowns, while New Palestine recorded six rushing scores overall to beat Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Greenfield-Central, 42-22.

“Words have been going back and forth for the past year, but we knew it was a big statement game, especially with high energy from both teams,” Thomas said. “It was really good to get the win. That’s giant (those six touchdowns). It’s good just to get back on track and get two wins (since Mt. Vernon). Just to get back on track as a team. It was really big.”

Two weeks ago, the Class 5A Dragons (3-3, 3-1 HHC) lost big to conference rival Mt. Vernon, 49-10, and only gained an uncharacteristic 77 yards rushing.

Since, the Dragons have broken free for 264 yards against Pendleton Heights last week and during the Cougars’ senior night this Friday, they surpassed the 200-yard mark once again.

“I knew it was going to be a battle, but the faster team won, I guess,” Thomas said.

In 2020, the Dragons narrowly slipped past the Cougars, 17-14. By the end of the third quarter, this time around, New Palestine left little doubt to the conclusion.

Thomas busted loose for a 47-yard touchdown run to put New Palestine up in the first quarter. Later, he capped a 41-yard drive in the second quarter with his second rushing score and later a 10-yard sprint in the third to put the Dragons up 28-7.

New Palestine lead 35-7 in the third quarter following quarterback Damon Hockett’s second rushing touchdown on the night from 10 yards out. Hockett finished with 125 yards on 14 carries. His first rushing TD, measuring 17 yards, broke a 7-7 tie in the first quarter.

The Dragons’ final rushing touchdown came from Kyler Kropp, who went 15 yards late in the fourth quarter to increase the margin, 42-14.

“We have a lot of weapons and we have to continue to find ways to use them,” New Palestine head coach Kyle Ralph said. “And, use them better as well.”

The defense helped the Dragons get those opportunities.

A Maddix Johnson interception against Street to open the second quarter secured a short field for the Dragons, which Thomas and the offense converted into a 21-7 lead.

A fumble recovery by Blaine Nunnally off a Cougars’ mishandled punt return in the fourth quarter setup Kropp’s series-ending TD run, which required one play to execute.

“They came out fired up, and we came out and kind of weathered the storm a little bit, I suppose, and then kind of got it going,” Ralph said.

“We gave up some massive plays, which is usually not what we do, but we did. I thought we at least handle the adversity well, in that regard, because those can be demoralizing to a degree.”

The biggest blow came from Street, who rushed for 125 yards and a 66-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 early in the first quarter.

Taking over under center in the second half last week for the Cougars (3-3, 1-2 HHC), Street shocked the Dragons initially.

“He’s really good. That’s something you really can’t practice. We had limited tape on him because he played a little bit last week, but he is really a dynamic quarterback. He ran that offense exceptionally well tonight,” Ralph said. “He’s got a great burst of speed. Really tough player and a great competitor. I think, their offense is in great hands with them. He’s a tough player to handle. He’s a home run threat.”

Street found a crease for a 65-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter, which would have either tied the game or given the Cougars a lead, down 13-7. However, a holding penalty erased the senior’s potential second, highlight run.

Penalties hurt the Cougars’ in the return game, on offense and on defense, extending drives for the Dragons, who capitalized on four short fields.

“We left 21 points on the field,” G-C head coach Travis Nolting said. “The touchdown that got called back on the field by Rashawn, I thought that was a great block by our player. He pancaked the guy into the ground, and it’s obviously, in the hands of the ref, but at that point in time that was kind of a momentum killer.”

Hockett passed for 116 yards with Kropp and Isaiah Thacker hauling in five of the senior’s eight completions for 90 yards combined.

“I thought, we, at least, for a young team, are doing better at some of those ups and downs and not staying down as long as we used to earlier in the season. When things go bad, we’re at least rebounding from that better,” Ralph said.

Greenfield-Central’s Brayden Herrell rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns with both coming late in the game at 2 and 23 yards to chip away at the Cougars’ 35-7 deficit.

“We had opportunities to compete out there, and our kids fight. Our team doesn’t give up. They fight the whole game and they’re going to do things the right way,” Nolting said. “I can’t say enough about Rashawn Street. Limited reps at quarterback, and he came in and played great for us.”

New Palestine 42, Greenfield-Central 22

NEW PALESTINE (3-3, 3-1 HHC);13;8;14;7;—;31

GREENFIELD-CENTRAL (3-3, 1-2 HHC);7;0;7;8;—;22

NPGrayson Thomas 47 run (Brendan Tanksley kick), 7:33

GCRashawn Street 66 run (Logan Masters kick), 7:01

NPDamon Hockett 17 run (kick failed), 1:38

NPThomas 1 run (2pt good), 8:55

NPThomas 10 run (Tanksley kick), 11:13

NPHockett 10 run (Tanksley kick), 2:26

GCBrayden Herrell 2 run (Masters kick), 1:36

NPKyler Kropp 15 run (Tanksley kick), 3:52

GCHerrell 23 run (2pt good), 3:11