Down 20-17 early in the fourth quarter, it looked as if the New Palestine Dragons seamlessly responded back with back-to-back touchdowns to close out a victory over Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Delta.
On the field, however, it was a much harder game than it looked.
"It was kind of brutal more than anything," said Dragons Senior quarterback Connor Simmons on what it was like on the gridiron of Lucas Oil Stadium. "Our line did a great job of doing it and everybody just stepped up, but I mean I think there was a lot of passion played in that game."
Simmons threw for three touchdowns and rushed for one, as the Dragons knocked off the Eagles 31-20 in the opening of the Horseshoe Classic.
"We were disappointed with our turnovers early in the game," said Dragons Head Coach Tim Able. "We had some opportunities to make some separation but didn't get that job done. But to our kids credit they fought to the very end and finished the game very strong. That was probably the best finish to a game we've had all year, so to finish the way we did was something we're really proud of. We just have to finish those drives that we didn't in the first half."
The Dragons had two opportunities during the second quarter to pad a lead against Delta, but both times fumbled the ball just yards away from the end zone. But up 10-6 after a long touchdown reception from Brandon Collins, New Palestine went into the half up 10-6 thanks to a touchdown reception by Brandon Collins.
Delta would strike back in the second half however, taking a 13-10 lead with a quarterback sneak from Ozzie Mann. The two teams exchanged leads thanks to a touchdown reception by New Palestine Senior Josh Penley to make it 17-13, and Delta's Tanner Anderson rushed for his second score of the game to go up 20-17.
That's when New Palestine turned on the jet engines.
"We have some seniors who are very composed and very confident," said Able. "They work very hard, and that's why we work hard. In the fourth quarter we preach to our kids that the fourth quarter is our quarter. That's our chant, and they got it done."
First Simmons drove the Dragons down the field where he snuck the ball in for a one-yard rush, and then after a fumble recovery by the defense, Simmons found Penley one more time in the back corner of the end zone to clinch the game at 31-20.
For New Palestine the victory meant a 4-0 start on the field, but much more to the hard work they've put in for the 2011 season.
"It means a lot because it's our senior year," said Simmons. "We just worked so hard during the winter, the summer, and the off-season. But we are ready just to move on, we are ready for that next step."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun