FORTVILLE — It’s a difficult task but New Palestine’s football team keeps plugging away.

The Class 4A third-ranked Dragons won their 10th straight game and third straight sectional championship with a commanding 42-6 victory over rival Mt. Vernon Friday.

To win the program’s 14th sectional championship and eighth in head coach Kyle Ralph’s 11 seasons, the Dragons had to beat their three sectional opponents all for a second time this season.

All three victories were by substantially larger margins than the regular season meeting.

The only postseason points against the Dragons Red Rage defense came on a fourth-quarter 18-yard run Friday by Mt. Vernon’s Joliba Brogan against New Pal’s junior varsity defense.

In a mini-Hoosier Heritage Conference tournament, the Dragons beat New Castle in the sectional opener, No. 4 Greenfield-Central in last week’s semifinal and biggest rival Mt. Vernon, which came into Friday’s title matchup on a five-game winning streak.

They beat the Trojans 63-0 after a 35-7 Week 8 regular-season win. They beat the state-ranked Cougars 35-0 after a 21-14 win in September. The Dragons beat Mt. Vernon 63-39 on Sept. 8.

“We’re bringing more energy and playing more as a team,” New Palestine defensive lineman Michael Thacker said of being able to beat teams for a second time.

On Friday, New Palestine got three touchdowns from running back/receiver Kyler Kropp, two receiving and one rushing, two scores from running back Grayson Thomas and a defensive score on a 58-yard fumble return by Brady Armstrong.

“I’m really proud of our guys and our coaching staff,” Ralph said. “(Mt. Vernon) was on a great streak, as well … You’re playing two really hot teams back-to-back with Greenfield and them. It’s hard. It’s hard to beat teams twice. It’s hard to beat good teams twice. It’s hard to beat good teams that are on a roll twice. We just did those things. I’m really proud of our kids. That’s a really quality win for us on the road against a good football team that is very senior heavy.”

A week after throwing the ball just three times the entire game, New Palestine jumped out on rival Mt. Vernon with a couple of big plays in its passing attack.

Sophomore quarterback Gavin Neal found Kropp open down the right sideline for the first of two first-quarter TD passes to put the Dragons up 7-0 with 4:20 left in the first quarter. The play accounted for 35 yards.

The Dragons didn’t negate the running game. All-state running back Thomas went for 14 yards on a third-and-14 play to keep the initial scoring drive alive.

The next New Pal possession ended with Neal-to-Kropp II.

A short punt followed by a Mt. Vernon facemask penalty on the Dragons second play put the ball on the Marauder 27. On the next play, Neal found Kropp for a 27-yard score. Neal was 4-for-4 for 62 yards in the first quarter.

Last week, the Dragons ran the ball 49 times out of 52 snaps. Neal was 2-for-3 for 29 yards.

“We thought we had some opportunities early on,” Ralph said about Friday’s passing attack. “Once we hit those and got a lead it really just became, ‘let’s make sure we don’t mess this up and not turn the ball over and be smart with it.’ We probably could have done a little more in the passing game, but they’ve got a good defense with explosive players over there.

“We didn’t want to turn the football over. We probably went a little too conservative, but it won the football game for us and you have to do what it takes to win.”

Late in the second quarter, New Palestine’s lead grew to 21-0.

On fourth-and-five from the Mt. Vernon 45, the Dragons executed a fake punt. Kropp went 32 yards on the play. Three plays later Thomas scored his 27th touchdown of the season, a 5-yard run, with 2:31 remaining until halftime.

His 28th came on a 4-yard run on the last play of the fourth quarter to give the Dragons a 42-0 lead.

Thomas finished with 118 yards on 19 carries.

In the second half, New Palestine’s defense scored.

After a Mt. Vernon reception for a first down, the ball was punched out and right into the hands of Armstrong, who went 58 yards for a touchdown and 28-0 New Pal lead.

Kropp scored on a 31-yard run at the 5:45 mark of the third to give the Dragons a 35-0 lead and start the running clock.

“At the end of the day, we got our butts kick,” Mt. Vernon head coach Vince Lidy said. “Give credit to New Pal, they pretty much dominated in almost every aspect of the game, hats off to them.”

It was the eighth time the rivals had met in the postseason. New Palestine leads 6-2. Overall, the Dragons lead the rivalry 39-24-1.

It’s the second straight Class 4A sectional title and third straight overall sectional championship. New Palestine won a Class 5A sectional title in 2021.

“Coming from 0-2, it’s a big accomplishment for this team,” Kropp said. “A lot of people didn’t believe in us in the beginning, but now we’re off to the next trophy, regional.”

New Palestine will host Mooresville, a winner over Brebeuf in the Sectional 21 title game, in a regional championship game next Friday at 7 p.m.

New Palestine 42, Mt. Vernon 6

New Palestine (10-2);14;7;21;0;-;42

Mt. Vernon (7-5);0;0;0;6;-;6

Scoring Summary

1st Quarter

NP – Kyler Kropp 35 pass from Gavin Neal (Jake Wells kick) 4:20

NP –Kropp 27 pass from Neal (Wells kick) 2:08

2nd Quarter

NP – Grayson Thomas 5 run (Wells kick) 2:31

3rd Quarter

NP –Brady Armstrong 58 fumble return (Wells kick) 9:26

NP –Kropp 31 run (Wells kick) 5:45

NP –Thomas 4 run (Wells kick) :00

4th Quarter

MV –Joliba Brogan 18 run (run failed) 8:29