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Spegal scores 4 TDs, as New Pal avoids repeat of Zionsville postseason upset, winning 29-17

By: Dalton Tinklenberg, October 27, 2018, 2:20 am

ZIONSVILLE — November 3, 2017, was the date and the then-undefeated New Palestine Dragons — winners of 60 of their previous 63 games and heavy favorites — were prepared to face off with the 6-5 Zionsville Eagles.

Then the unthinkable happened, the Eagles hung with New Palestine just long enough and with seven seconds remaining sophomore kicker Chris Freeman nailed a 48-yard field goal to stun the Dragons.

Fast forward to October 26, 2018, and the Dragons once again found themselves matched up against the Eagles in the postseason.

This time though, things were different though as a cast consisting of Charlie Spegal and Zach Neligh ran through the Eagles defense when it mattered most on the way to a 29-17 victory in Friday’s 5A sectional contest.

“(Being) 1-0 feels real good right about now," said New Palestine head coach Kyle Ralph, whose team had a first-round bye in the postseason.

“Just so proud of our kids. Playing so many guys both ways trying to maximize what we do, put the best athletes on the field, limit their Division 1 (player) to a minimal game, made them move the chains. That’s a game to be a part of, you’re not going to forget. Just a gritty, gritty finish. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t clean, but our kids pulled somewhere deep down inside of them and got a great win tonight.”

New Palestine will now prepare for a matchup with Anderson next week as the Dragons look to continue their march towards a championship.

As the game began a steady stream of bitterly cold rain and wind engulfed the field. Not surprisingly, the weather quickly played a role. As New Palestine marched down the field towards what looked to be a sure-fire scoring drive, a fumble on the Zionsville 15-yard line stopped the Dragons in their tracks. The Eagles failed to capitalize though as just several plays later, junior Brody Luker intercepted a pass for the Dragons and returned it to the Zionsville 27-yard line.

With three and a half minutes remaining in the first quarter, Spegal took a handoff into the end zone for the game’s first score.

After a quick possession by the Eagles that failed to yield any points, New Palestine got the ball once more. It took just over two minutes for the Dragons and Spegal to find the end zone for the second time and suddenly with 13 seconds left in the first quarter the game appeared to be primed for a blowout.

Finally, on the next drive, the Eagles showed some life as Garrett Williamson scored to put Zionsville on the board and within seven points.

The effects of the weather had seemingly disappeared late into the first half as both offenses settled down and settled in. Then disaster struck for the Eagles and a punt from deep in their own territory resulted in a safety as the ball soared over the punter and out of bounds. The error lifted the Dragon advantage to 16-7.

Coming out of halftime, the Eagles looked to a completely different team between the 20-yard lines as they moved the ball with relative ease. The red zone itself, however, was an entirely different story. Through four second-half trips to the Dragons’ red zone, Zionsville managed a measly 10 points.

Ultimately, the second-half push was not enough to overcome the dominance of Spegal and his four touchdown performance. When the final whistle blew, Spegal had tallied 130 yards and those four scores on 26 carries. Neligh added to those numbers with 140 passing yards and 120 rushing yards of his own.

For Zionsville, freshman Colin Price was the story as he gashed the New Palestine defense on his way to eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the night.