INDIANAPOLIS — The first half was dominated by New Palestine. The second half was all Whiteland — that is until the final two-plus minutes.
Clinging to a 31-26 lead, New Palestine’s Brady Walden returned an interception 40 yards to seal the Class 5A No. 2 Dragons 38-26 victory against No. 10 Whiteland Friday night in the Horseshoe Classic at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Dragons snuffed out the Warriors’ final drive with Jordan Shanahan’s interception.
New Palestine senior running back DuRon Ford scored four touchdowns and ran for 147 yards on 15 carries as the Dragons led 31-13 at intermission. Ford finished with 178 yards.
After the Warriors sliced the lead to 31-26 with 7:01 left in the fourth quarter, the Dragons dove to the Warriors’ 33 but were Ford was stopped on fourth-and-1 with 3:12 to go.
The Dragons took a 7-0 lead on Ford’s 7-yard run with 4:15 left in the first quarter. Ford’s 1-yard TD run made it 14-0 with 18 seconds left in the opening quarter.
The Warriors were able to narrow the lead to 14-7 on Ryan Hammond’s 7-yard TD run early in the second quarter. Hammond delivered the big play on the drive with a 21-yard run, which put the ball on the Dragons 18-yard line.
Ford struck again with a 66-yard TD run to give the Dragons a 21-7 advantage with 7:04 to go in the second quarter. The Warriors followed with a 12-play drive, capped by Hammond’s 1-yard TD run. The Warriors missed the PAT.
Any momentum for the Warriors was short-lived, however. A 43-yard pass play from Gunnar Large to Jordan Shanahan combined with a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty put the ball on the Warriors 22. Ford scored on the following play.
A fumbled kickoff by Whiteland then led to a 20-yard field goal by Spencer Corey in the final seconds before intermission. With no timeouts, New Palestine had to throw on third down from the 3-yard line and the pass was incomplete.
In the first possession of the second half, the Warriors drove to New Palestine 18, senior quarterback Jace Carpenter gained just one yard on a keeper on fourth-and-3.
On the final play of the third quarter, the Warriors’ Hammond scored on a 14-yard run to slice the deficit to 31-20.
After stopping the Dragons from getting a first down, the Warriors capped another nice drive with a 1-yard TD run by Edwin Cisneros to slice the lead to 31-26 The two-point conversion attempt failed.
Hammond and Cisneros both finished with more than 100 rushing yards for Whiteland.
New Palestine opened the season where it finished in 2015. The Dragons lost to Fort Wayne Snider 64-61 in the 5A championship game at Lucas Oil.
The Warriors will play host to Center Grove (0-1) Friday. The Dragons will be at Richmond (1-0), which shut out Connersville 27-0 Friday night.