INDIANAPOLIS — Junior quarterback Alex Neligh was astounded at all the numbers he and his New Palestine teammates racked up on their way to winning Friday's Class 4A state football championship.
Neligh threw five touchdown passes and ran for three more scores as New Palestine amassed a state-record 49 points in the first half and continued to break records as the Dragons cruised to a 77-42 win over New Prairie.
Friday's win at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis was the first state championship of any kind for the Dragons. And the victory bumped them up to Class 5A next year via the IHSAA's postseason success factor.
Neligh passed for 211 yards and rushed for 178 in the win.
The Dragons broke from a 7-7 tie after the first seven minutes by scoring four touchdowns in a span of 6:36, building a 35-7 lead with 9:36 still to play in the opening half.
The teams combined to set or break 26 championship-game records.
"It is awesome to be part of it. Being with these guys through the offseason and then finish like this is a great way to cap off the season," said Neligh, who threw TD passes of 7, 55, 29, 25 and 6 yards and had TD rushes of 21, 30 and 4 yards.
Neligh accounted for six records, including most passing touchdowns, breaking the class record of three held by Jeff George of Warren Central and equaling the overall mark of five established by Rex Grossman of Bloomington South; and most Class 4A rushing yards.
"That is unbelievable," said Neligh, who completed 13-of-15 passes without an interception. "I still have another year to come back and do more, but being in the same boat as both of those guys is an unbelievable honor. I have nothing but respect for those guys; it is just amazing."
Senior running back James Young rushed 17 times for 285 yards and two touchdowns. One of those was a record 98-yard touchdown run near the end of the first quarter. Junior wide receiver Duke Blackwell caught five passes for 130 yards and three TDs. Sophomore placekicker Kyle Barton set records by kicking all the conversions.
For New Prairie, senior running back/defensive back Tyler Weller ran for 181 yards and four touchdowns (67, 3, 3, 4) and returned a non-scoring interception for a Class 4A-record 79 yards.
"Our kids executed at a phenomenally high level as they have all season," said New Palestine coach Kyle Ralph, whose team averaged 55.3 points. "This 2014 team picked up where 2013 left off and took it to a whole new level."
New Prairie coach Russ Radtke said his team will move forward.
"Failure is short lived," he said. "You have to look forward to tomorrow and get after it. What happened tonight was just one ball game."
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