ST. LEON —New Palestine’s 11-game winning streak and 2023 high school football season came to an end Friday.
In a battle of the two highest-ranked teams remaining in Class 4A, No. 1 ranked East Central took control from the start and defeated the third-ranked Dragons 49-0 in the Class 4A South Semi-State at East Central High School.
The Dragons end the year with an 11-3 record, sectional and regional champions and winners of the Hoosier Heritage Conference.
“We’re an 11-win football team and a regional champion, I don’t think anyone would have given us a chance to do that to start of the year,” New Palestine head coach Kyle Ralph said. “The fact that we’re here just speaks volumes for (the seniors) leading us, and not allowing excuses to be made for themselves for anything. They kept finding ways to win. Tonight’s not the result you want, but it’s the journey getting here that counts and that’s what I’m proud of.”
The Trojans extended their streak of wins to 20. The defending Class 4A state champions won their final six games last season and improved to 14-0 after the win over New Palestine. East Central will defend its state title next Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium against NorthWood, a winner over Leo in Friday’s North Semi-State.
The shutout of the Dragons was East Central’s seventh of the season.
After a three-and-out opening series by the Dragons, East Central showed its dominance right away.
The Trojans went 86 yards on nine plays, finishing with a 6-yard touchdown run from running back Josh Ringer, his 51st touchdown of the season. East Central did not have a third down in the series and all nine plays were rushes.
Ringer scored his second touchdown on a 2-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. It was a five-play 79-yard drive highlighted by a long run from running back Dylan Maxwell, who proved to be as dangerous in the backfield as Ringer, who came in averaging over 11 yards per carry and nearly 200 yards per game.
East Central was just as strong on the defensive side. The Dragons didn’t get a first down until the second quarter.
Trailing 14-0, New Palestine had a 7-minute, 29-second drive, but came away with no points.
Starting from their own 20, the Dragons took 17 plays to get to the East Central 22 before turning the ball over on downs.
In Wildcat formation, Kyler Kropp rushed for 15 yards and the team’s first first down to get the ball to the New Pal 40.
Sophomore quarterback Gavin Neal threw an 8-yard pass to senior receiver Mason Hiatt for another first down. On fourth-and-one from the East Central 30, running back Grayson Thomas gained three yards to the 27, but an incomplete pass, and short runs from Thomas and Neal gave the ball back to East Central.
It took the Trojans just one play to score. Maxwell went 78 yards to make it 21-0.
Just before halftime, Maxwell scored on a 6-yard run. He had, unofficially, 212 rushing yards by halftime and 258 for the game.
East Central had three backs reach triple digits. Ringer had 120 yards on 20 carries. Freshman Ryan Minges, who had a late 63-yard touchdown run, finished with 100 yards on eight carries. All of East Central’s yards came on the ground.
Quarterback Cole Burton threw one pass and it was incomplete.
The Dragons had another opportunity in East Central territory early in the third quarter. Michael Thacker recovered a Ringer fumble at the Trojan 31, but the Dragons turned the ball over on downs at the East Central 23.
New Palestine was competing in a semi-state for the eighth time and first in four years. They are 5-3 in semi-state games.
The Trojans, along with being ranked No. 1 in the state, came in ranked No. 1 overall in the state in points per game (49.9) and scoring margin (43.5). Their defensive average of 6.4 points per game is No. 3 in the state and tops in Class 4A.
New Palestine lost its first two games, to Class 6A Westfield and Class 5A Decatur Central before winning 11 in a row. Both Westfield and Decatur Central played in their classification semi-state round Friday, too.
“You can’t say enough about how they just kept battling and pushing forward,” Ralph added on his team, the youngest he’s had in 11 seasons and whose only losses were teams playing in semi-state contests. “They pushed through adversity. We found ways to get the job done and that’s what New Pal football is about. Championships are wonderful but finding ways to get the job done is what it’s all about.”
East Central 49, New Palestine 0
New Palestine (11-3);0;0;0;0;-;0
East Central (14-0);7;21;7;14;-;49
EC – Josh Ringer 6 run (Nathan McFee kick) 6:52
EC – Ringer 2 run (McFee kick) 11:55
EC – Dylan Maxwell 78 run (McFee kick) 4:14
EC – Maxwell 6 run (McFee kick) :24.8
EC – Ryan Minges 5 run (McFee kick) 2:01
EC –Minges 63 run (McFee kick) 2:16
EC – Cole Sebastian 10 fumble return (McFee kick) 1:05