New Pal's Spegal continues assault on IHSAA record books, as Dragons ready for sectionals
There is something magical about high school sports and the way a community can rally around a team or player.
That is the case in New Palestine, Ind., where the New Palestine High Dragons look to finish off an undefeated regular season Friday before heading into sectionals.
That’s not necessarily new. The Dragons have gone unbeaten in the regular season each year since coach Kyle Ralph took over in 2013 — winning 53 straight regular-season games, and at least a share of six straight Hoosier Heritage Conference titles — posting a 68-4 overall mark in five-plus seasons, including a 4A state title in 2014.
There's something special about this Dragons team, though.
A junior by the name of Charlie Spegal is a young man that pops out whether watching game footage or scouring the stat sheets, and for good reason: Spegal spent his first two high school seasons at Delta High School where he racked up 4,343 yards and 50 touchdowns on the ground before transferring to New Pal.
“Coming into New Palestine, I knew that everyone had to work hard to earn a starting spot,” Spegal said. “Nobody is given a spot. I had to work really hard to get the starting position. As soon as I got here, everyone accepted (me). I made a lot of new friends. I think the transition has been really fun so far.”
Spegal eventually displaced last year’s leading rusher for the Dragons, Luke Canfield, who had 1,764 yards and 29 touchdowns as a sophomore.
Canfield now starts at cornerback for the 8-0 Dragons.
Competing for things is just ingrained in Spegal’s nature, though.
“My parents (Chris and Tammy) have impacted my career by pushing me to give my best effort on everything," Spegal said. "All three of my brothers (David, Devon, and Joe) have impacted my life by (providing) competition. Having an older brother that had a really good career really pushed me to also have a good career. All the coaches that I have had along the way really pushed me to be the best I can be too. The coaching never stops. Everything that I need to work on, Coach Ralph is helping me and coaching me on how to improve on it."
The 5-foot-10, 225-pound junior has plenty of reasons to be having fun through the first eight weeks. He has picked up right where he left off at Delta, rushing for 1,777 yards and 41 touchdowns as a Dragon, the first player in school history to go over the 40-touchdown mark in a season. He had a single-game school record seven TDs in a 77-0 Week 1 win over Kokomo, last year’s runner-up in 5A.
Those statistics put him in range of several of Indiana's all-time records, including the mark for career rushing yards. Currently, Spegal sits at 6,120 career yards — already good for 22nd-most in IHSAA history — just 1,990 short of former Elwood star Sammy Mireles' record of 8,110. With 91 career touchdowns, it’s a pretty safe bet he’ll make his way onto the state’s all-time top 25 scorer’s list, as well.
Despite all of this, it seems as if many fans and pundits alike seem to overlook Spegal. Fortunately for them, he doesn't seem to mind.
“Being the top player in the state is what I want to be and that is what I strive to be, but no matter what, I’m always going to have people saying that I’m overrated," Spegal said. “Throughout my football career, I’ve learned to not care about what other people think or say.”
Of course, with the recent trend of top-level high school athletes taking their talents to prep schools, speculation has begun to swirl that the running back will follow the trends after this season.
He quickly shut this down by stating, “No there is not any truth on that. I’m finishing my high school career at New Palestine.” He would go on to say that he had not heard any of the speculation himself.
Spegal and the Dragons will ironically finish the season against a very good 6-2 Delta team before getting a bye in the first round of sectionals. The Dragons will then face the winner of Muncie Central and Zionsville. Spegal made sure to make it clear that he was not overlooking Delta before answering a question about the upcoming postseason.
"I’m ready to play in the sectionals," explained Spegal. "That’s when the game gets even more fun and interesting. Obviously, I hope that we can go far into the playoffs, but we have to play one game at a time and keep improving."
Ultimately, Spegal will go down as one of the top performers in Indiana high school football history if he can remain healthy over the remainder of this season and next.
The junior will soon have a big decision to make when he decides where it is he will play after his senior year. In the meantime, he’s quietly continuing his assault on the IHSAA record books.