Dragon football clinches piece of HHC title
October 12, 2013By Andrew Smith of New Palestine High School
The Dragons clinched at least a share of the fifth Hoosier Heritage Conference championship in school history Friday with a 51-7 victory over cross-county rival Greenfield-Central.
NP, ranked No. 1 in Class 4A by the Sagarin ratings, No. 2 by the IFCA and No. 3 by the AP, improved to 8-0 with the victory and 5-0 in HHC play. A victory over Mt. Vernon next week would give them the outright conference title.
The Dragons’ defense provided the spark, with Nick Brickens’ picking off a pass on G-C’s first drive and running it back 60 yards for a TD – the team’s third defensive touchdown of the year. In the third quarter, they recorded their fourth safety when Nick Buckhorn tackled a G-C ballcarrier in the end zone. NP had four quarterback sacks and held the Cougars to 109 yards of total offense.
The Dragons scored on all five drives quarterbacked by senior Blake Luker and built a 42-0 lead by the opening drive of the second half.
Luker finished the day completing 15-of-17 for 221 yards and one TD. He also ran nine times for 75 yards and three TDs. Running back James Young ran 11 times for 111 yards – the Dragons’ fifth 100-yard rushing effort of the season.
And the team came one yard short of having a triple-century game, as wideout Nolan Guedel caught three passes for 99 yards – with 83 of those yards coming on back-to-back plays. Luker hit Nolan Guedel for a 23-yard pass, and then hooked up with him for a 60-yard TD, where Guedel caught the ball at midfield and eluded two tacklers on the way to the end zone to make it 21-0 with 8:06 to go in the second quarter.
Earlier, Luker capped off the first drive – a 10-play, 75-yard march that featured two completions to Justin Wiggins – with a 26-yard touchdown scamper on fourth-and-2.
The Dragons remained efficient. A 9-yard dash to the goal line by Luker on fourth down made it 28-0 with 5:17 to go in the opening half. Brian Wagner scored his first TD of the year on a 3-yard plunge to cap a nine-play drive right before halftime – one set up by a 15-yard pass to Wiggins – and Luker engineered a 51-yard drive to start the second half, making it 42-0 with his third TD of the night. Luker has now run for 15 TDs and thrown for 20.
The Dragons outgained G-C 433-109.
Of note: Luker threw his fifth 200-yard game, all this season. His 15-of-17 accuracy marked his highest career completion percentage, at 88.2%. ... James Young's 111-yard game was his second 100+-yard game of the year. He ran for 159 yards against Pendleton Heights. ... Brian Wagner scored his first career TD late in the opening half. ... Luker has now thrown for 1,657 yards this season, passing Justin Plummer (1997) and Mark Shepler (1987) into third-place on the single-season passing list. He needs to throw for 349 yards to catch second-place Matt Rodgers. ... Guedel's 60-yard TD reception was a career long, and his 99-yard receiving day was a career high. Justin Wiggins' five catches also marked a career high. ... Tyler Walden had five catches for 44 yards, extending his school-record career marks to 107 catches and 1,747 yards. He became the second Dragon to catch 50 passes in a season, and now has 53 receptions. He needs seven more catches to tie 2012 graduate Brandon Collins' single-season record for catches in a year, and 83 yards to catch Collins' single-season receiving yardage mark. ... The 8-0 start is the fifth-best for a New Palestine team. A victory next week would clinch the fifth undefeated regular season in school history. The Dragons also posted unbeaten regular seasons in 1983, 1984, 1988 and 2011. ... New Palestine now leads the all-time series with Greenfield-Central 16-5. ... Next week's meeting at Mt. Vernon will be the 51st meeting in the series' history. MV is the only opponent the Dragons have played in each of their 46 seasons. Both schools began varsity football in 1968. ... New Palestine has also won HHC championships in 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2011. All but 2005 were outright.