November 27, 2015

Fort Wayne Snider wins State Title in Highest Scoring Championship Game
What looked like a blowout became the greatest comeback in state finals history – until Fort Wayne Snider decided it had one more score in it.

The fifth-ranked Panthers (13-1) built a 28-point lead on No. 1 New Palestine, saw the Dragons storm back to take the lead twice in the fourth quarter, and then responded with a 68-yard touchdown drive in the final minute to pull out a 64-61 win in the highest-scoring final in Indiana history.

With his team trailing 61-56, Snider quarterback Isaac Stiebeling completed 4-5 passes for 65 yards to set up his 3-yard touchdown run with just eight seconds left. The two-point conversion gave the Panthers a 64-61 lead; New Palestine was then intercepted at midfield as time ran out.

Stiebeling had a monster game, throwing for 346 yards and three touchdowns, running for 33 yards and three scores, and catching a 37-yard touchdown pass. His nearly flawless first-half performance helped the Panthers score six touchdowns in just 7:33 of clock time to seize a 42-14 lead against the defending Class 4A state champs.

But the Dragons (13-1), who saw their 28-game win streak snapped, wouldn’t go quietly. Behind a record-breaking performance from quarterback Alex Neligh, NP would score 35 straight points from the end of the first half to early in the fourth quarter, taking a 49-42 lead with 8:34 left in the game.

Snider would retake the lead at 56-49 and then block New Palestine’s extra-point try on the Dragons’ ensuing touchdown to maintain a one-point advantage. But the Dragons got a defensive stop and took possession at their own 11 with 1:23 left. Three plays later, Neligh hit Duke Blackwell on a 56-yard score to give NP a 61-56 lead with 63 seconds remaining. A two-point try by the Dragons failed, setting the stage for Stiebeling’s heroics.

Neligh finished the game throwing for an overall state-finals record 501 yards. He connected on four touchdown passes, and also ran for 166 yards and four more scores. Blackwell set an overall finals record with 328 yards receiving, catching 10 passes and scoring three times.

The Dragons’ 757 total yards smashed the previous record set by New Palestine in its 77-42 win against New Prairie in last year’s 4A final. The teams also combined for an overall finals record of 1,302 total yards.

Team Records

Most Combined Points (125) 5A & Overall 64-Snider 61-NewPal
Most Touchdowns (9) 5A only – Snider
Most PAT Kicks (8) 5A only – Snider
Most Passing Yards (501) 5A & Overall – New Pal
Total Offensive Yards (757) 5A & Overall – New Pal
Total combined offensive yards (1,302) 5A & Overall  757-New Pal 545-Snider
Most First Downs (30) 5A & overall – New Pal
Most Kickoff Return yds. (168) 5A only – Snider

Individual Records

Most Touchdowns (4) Tied 5A record (Alex Neligh) – New Pal
Most PAT Kicks (8) Tied 5A record (Paul Buisman) – New Pal
Most Rushing Touchdowns (4) Tied 5A record (Alex Neligh) – New Pal
Most Passing Yards (501) 5A & Overall (Alex Neligh) – New Pal
Receiving Yards (328) 5A & Overall (Duke Blackwell) – New Pal
Receiving TD’s (3) Tied 5A & Overall (Duke Blackwell) – New Pal

New Palestine’s Alex Neligh named Eskew Mental Attitude Award winner
At the conclusion of the state championship game, the IHSAA Executive Committee named Alex Neligh of New Palestine High School as the winner of the Phil N. Eskew Mental Attitude Award in Class 5A Football.

Neligh is a two-sport athlete also participating in track.  He is a two-year varsity letterman for the Dragons accounting for over 8,000 total yards and 60 touchdowns, while also being named 1st Team AP and IFCA All-State last year.  He is also a member of the Student Council for Athletic Leadership in Education as well as the school’s Best Buddies Organization.

Alex is the son of Jason and Lisa Neligh of New Palestine, IN.  He is undecided on his college choice, but plans on studying psychology.

Each year the IHSAA Executive Committee selects a senior player who was nominated by his principal and coach and was determined to have best demonstrated mental attitude, scholarship, leadership, and athletic ability. The award is named in honor of the IHSAA’s third commissioner from 1962-76.

The Indianapolis Colts presented a $1,000 scholarship to New Palestine High School in the name of Alex Neligh. The Colts have been the presenting sponsor of the entire football state tournament since 2009 and are sponsoring the Phil N. Eskew Mental Attitude Award.