Dragons let loose against Golden Bears, secure coach’s 100th victory

New Palestine's Madix Johnson (3) sacks Shelbyville's Bolton Atkins (15) for a loss during their game at New Palestine on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. (Rob Baker/Daily Reporter)

NEW PALESTINE — Total domination from start to finish was exactly what the doctor ordered for the New Palestine football team.

And, for Dragons head coach Kyle Ralph, that’s exactly what he got Friday night, even if it included a water-cooler bath at the conclusion.

With a challenge put out there to his team to not take the Shelbyville Golden Bears lightly for homecoming night, New Palestine answered, picking up a 52-0 victory.

The win improved the Dragons’ record to 4-3 overall and 4-1 in the Hoosier Heritage Conference. The victory was also Ralph’s 100th as head coach of the Dragons.

Ralph, who is 100-9 in nine seasons, is the second-winningest coach in New Palestine history, trailing only Marvin Shepler, who won 200 games.

The Dragons dominated the visiting Golden Bears on both the scoreboard and the stat sheet, amassing more than 500 total yards to 98 for Shelbyville and extended their dominance over their opponent to nine straight wins.

“I told the team at the break, I don’t pull any punches and give it to them honest. I was really happy with our effort. It was our best week of practice this season. When we went to grading every single rep on five different criteria, it was about changing the culture of the process we are going about this season,” Ralph said.

“The kids have bought into it and are doing a great job, and you can tell a difference in how we are playing right now. When you prepare the right way, you stay focused on the task at hand, compete against yourself and good things can happen. We will try to continue to take steps forward. They have bought into it, and it is a fun group to coach.”

During his nine years, Ralph has found a way to produce state-championship caliber teams through a variety of ways. Something he acknowledged after the game, noting that each season and each team is different.

“At the end of the day, I stand behind core principles. The harder kids have to work, the harder it is to surrender. Our kids have never given up. They work hard and a big part of what we do is make them work hard. You remember the things you’ve gone through to get to this point. Each team has different sets of goals and the growth we want to see from week to week is important to us,” Ralph said.

“Not everyone can be a state champion. There’s one per division. Goal was to be 1-0 and beat Decatur, and we fell short. Goal is to get better with a young team. With a young team you have to understand there are going to be growing pains and the kids continue to work hard. Start was rough, parts in between were rough, but they keep showing up and putting the work in.”

As for win No. 100, Ralph noted that the wins belong to every single player and coach he had the opportunity to coach and game plan with.

“I’d like to say thanks for to all the players. It is remarkable to think we have accumulated that many wins. Tremendous staff. Administration has been exceptional. Tremendous facilities. I didn’t win 100 games alone. I don’t play and I don’t coach by myself, lot of help along the way,” Ralph said.

New Palestine wasted little time imposing its will on the visiting Golden Bears, as running back Kyler Kropp took a handoff and found pay dirt from 3 yards out to put the Dragons ahead 7-0 just under two minutes into the first quarter.

Two minutes later, the Dragons would score again as Grayson Thomas found the end zone for the first of his three first-half touchdowns, taking a handoff 26 yards to extend the lead to 14-0.

The lead would swell to 21-0 with just over two minutes remaining in the first quarter when quarterback Damon Hockett connected with wide receiver Isaiah Thacker for a 36-yard touchdown strike.

The explosive offense would continue in the second quarter as Thomas took eight seconds and 25 yards to push the lead to 28-0 for the Dragons with 11:52 remaining in the period.

Kropp would find the end zone for the second time, taking a handoff seven yards into the end zone to stretch the lead to 35-0. Thomas would add one more touchdown from 42 yards out to stretch the lead to 42-0 before the halftime intermission.

Thomas finished with three touchdowns and 153 yards on 12 first-half carries.

“It is great to take another step in the right direction and get the team back on track. We are really turning the corner and becoming a really good team. Good to have a really good game tonight. Really good mental week and we are going to take that and really turn the corner,” said Thomas, who has rushed for more than 2,000 yards in his New Palestine career.

The halftime break did little to slow the Dragons, as junior wide receiver Blaine Nunnally scored to push the lead to 49-0, and kicker Jake Wells would boot his first-career field goal from 25 yards out for the final score of the night.

New Palestine will host New Castle next week for its senior night festivities.

New Palestine 52, Shelbyville 0

SHELBYVILLE (1-3, 0-2 HHC);0;0;0;0;—0

NEW PALESTINE (4-3, 4-1 HHC);21;21;7;3;—52

NP—Kyler Kropp 3 run (Brendan Tanksley kick), 10:41

NP—Grayson Thomas 26 run (Tanksley kick), 8:04

NP—Isaiah Thacker 36 pass from Damon Hockett (Tanksley kick), 2:43

NP—Thomas 25 run (Tanksley kick), 11:52

NP—Kropp 7 run (Tanksley kick), 4:39

NP—Thomas 29 run (Tanksley kick), 1:40

NP—Blaine Nunnally 22 run (Tanksley kick), 8:44

NP—Jake Wells 25 FG, 9:33