With a steady rain falling Friday, host and pass-oriented New Palestine figured to be at a distinct disadvantage against Class 5A No. 7 Whiteland and its ground-oriented attack.
Instead, the Class 4A No. 9 Dragons set the game’s tone early through the air and maintained it throughout the contest.
New Palestine scored two touchdowns on its first two possessions, and the Dragons added two second-quarter scores to build a 28-3 lead late in the first half. Whiteland played New Palestine even the rest of the way, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the host Dragons cruised to a 35-10 nonconference victory.
Dragons’ quarterback Blake Luker completed 10 of 17 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns, while Tyler Walden hauled in seven of those catches for 155 yards and two scores.
Whiteland’s Jeffrey Wooten rushed for 144 yards on 21 carries, but it wasn’t nearly enough to offset New Palestine’s aerial attack.
“We didn’t get off the bus ready to play great football,” Whiteland coach Darrin Fisher said. “(New Palestine) created space well and some one-on-one match-ups, but you have to tackle.
“We had guys in position and didn’t tackle well.”
Walden snared a pass over the middle for a 67-yard touchdown on the Dragons’ second play from scrimmage to give New Palestine a 7-0 lead.
On their second possession, the Dragons needed just three plays to score. Walden took a screen pass and went 36 yards for a score with four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The Warriors (3-2) responded with a 16-play, 54-yard drive that ended with a 37-yard Avery Beheler field goal, but Luker kept the ball on an option play on New Palestine’s first play from scrimmage on its next possession and ran 80 yards untouched to give the Dragons a 21-3 lead.
Whiteland’s lone touchdown drive ended with 52 seconds remaining in the first half, when Isaiah Calaway caught a 20-yard fade route in the end zone to cut New Palestine’s lead to 28-10. Wooten set up the score with a 57-yard run.
“Defensively, we were able to tighten things up in the second half, but we’ve just got to play better,” Fisher said. “We’ve got to do a better job of rising to the occasion. It isn’t about our opponent. It’s about us.”
The Warriors return to Mid-State Conference action next Friday when they host Martinsville.