50 years of Dragon Football: Ranking New Pal’s best teams

Written by: Alex Cotterman

 

The New Palestine Dragons football program is enjoying their 50th varsity season. On Friday, Sept. 29 the Dragons, invited alumni from all years to celebrate the proud history of New Palestine football. The Dragons have done a lot in the last 50 seasons, winning the HHC eight times and winning nine sectional championships. New Palestine has won the regional championship four times, three of which have come within the last five years. The Dragons have reached the state title game three times, winning in 2014. With all of this success, it begs the question: “Which Dragons team is the greatest of all time?”. Here is a compilation of some of the best Dragon football has had to offer in their illustrious history.

 

Honorable Mentions:

 

1988

The Dragons finished the season with a 10-1 record and were flawless in BBRC play (6-0). The Dragons only loss came in the sectional championship to Lawrenceburg 20-0. The Dragons were led by quarterback Matt Canada, who threw for 1,068 yards on the season. Canada has had a successful coaching career and is currently the offensive coordinator of LSU. On the ground, New Palestine was led by Todd Marks and his 1,793 rushing yards.

 

2011

The final team of Tim Able’s coaching tenure, finished 11-1 while winning the HHC. The Dragons finished their fifth perfect regular season. Quarterback Connor Simmons threw for, a then school record, 2,795 yards and 35 touchdowns. The Dragons great season came to an end in the sectional championship game.

 

#5: 1984

The 1984 team was the first squad to complete back-to-back perfect regular seasons. The second rendition of this team gets the nod over the ‘83 squad because of an increase in offensive output. Current Dragons freshman coach and then quarterback, Gary Greene threw for 1,426 yards and became the Dragons’ all-time leading passer at the time. New Palestine won the BBRC and qualified for the playoffs, narrowly losing to Hagerstown in the sectional championship.

 

#4: 2013

The 2013 squad was current head coach Kyle Ralph’s first season at the helm and he immediately turned the team around. From a 3-7 record and a first round sectional exit in 2012, to a 13-1 record and a semi-state appearance, Ralph swiftly turned New Pal back into a winner. Senior quarterback Blake Luker threw for 2,630 yards and a staggering 33 touchdowns to only three interceptions. Luker wasn’t done there, he also ran for 1,142 yards and 21 touchdowns. The Red Rage defense allowed less than 12 points per game and racked up 67.5 sacks as a team. The Dragons won the HHC, as well as a sectional and regional championship in 2013.

 

#3: 1990

Prior to Ralph’s tenure, the 1990 team was the only Dragons squad to reach the state finals. Star running back Nick Roudebush followed a solid junior season with a stellar senior campaign where he rushed for 2,020 yards. The Dragons nearly had a perfect regular season, their only loss coming to Mt. Vernon. That loss was avenged with a 19-7 victory in the opening round of sectional play. The Dragons continued to roll all the way to their first state championship, but were outmatched by Fort Wayne Dwenger, losing 56-14. That final loss however, doesn’t diminish the tremendous season the 1990 team had.

 

#2: 2015

The 2015 Dragons may be the most talented team top to bottom that has ever come through New Palestine. Star quarterback and Mr. Football runner-up Alex Neligh had his best season, throwing for 2,852 yards and 36 touchdowns and running for another 2,097 yards and 37 touchdowns. New Palestine scored a state record 854 points, while only allowing 209 points per game, the majority of that coming in garbage time. The Dragons had six all state players that year. A young Austin Keele and Luke Ely also contributed, as they would become All-State players the following season. Despite moving to class 5A, the Dragons ran through the tournament and again reached the state title. The end to the Dragons season came with a 64-61 loss to Fort Wayne Snider in the state championship. Win, lose or tie the 2015 5A State Championship game is one of the greatest football games played at any level and the fact New Palestine was apart of it is something to be proud of as a program.

 

#1: 2014

The best Dragons season of All-Time came in 2014. The Dragons, still fueled by the 2013 semi-state loss to Columbus East entered the season on a mission to avenge the previous season’s loss. Avenge it they did. The Dragons, again rolled in the regular season, completing another undefeated season and winning the HHC. The Dragons dominated their competition early in tournament play, outscoring their opponents 262-40 through the Regional Championship game. New Pal got their shot against Columbus East in a rematch of the 2013 semi-state matchup. New Palestine fell behind early and had to claw their way back into the game. The Dragons would win the game in dramatic fashion, as they reeled off 16 fourth quarter points, including Spencer Corey’s game-winning field goal as time expired. New Palestine would win their first ever state championship one week later in a 77-42 win over New Prarie. The offensive explosion set numerous state and team records, as the 2014 Dragons cemented themselves as New Palestine’s greatest team in their rich, 50-year history.

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