PENDLETON — John Broughton knew this day was coming sooner or later.
He would have preferred later.
But if the Pendleton Heights football coach has learned anything in his 38 years on the sideline, it’s that you can’t always get what you want. And there’s no use complaining about it.
The Arabians (4-5) received one of the toughest sectional draws in the state and will host Class 4A No. 2 New Palestine (9-0) in the first round Friday night.
“The only thing I can tell you is to win that sectional you’re going to have to beat the No. 2 team in the state at some point,” Broughton said. “We’ve just gotta play ‘em right off the bat.”
Pendleton Heights has been down this road before, losing 46-7 at New Palestine on Sept. 6.
The Dragons have earned all the frightening comparisons their nickname inspires. They average 42.4 points per game and allow 6.9. The 20-0 victory against rival Mount Vernon last week that clinched the Hoosier Heritage Conference championship was their tightest contest of the season.
New Palestine’s other “close” games include a 35-14 win at Yorktown and a 35-10 decision against Whiteland. The Dragons have scored at least 41 points in every other contest and haven’t allowed more than 14 all season.
In Blake Luker, New Palestine has a duel-threat quarterback who is as dangerous with his arm as he is with his legs. Luker completed 22 of 29 pass attempts for 334 yards and four touchdowns and ran 12 times for 70 yards and another score in the first meeting against Pendleton Heights.
Wide receiver Tyler Walden caught 14 of those passes for a school-record 212 yards and two scores against the Arabians.
For the season, Luker has completed 72 percent of his throws for 1,854 yards and 23 touchdowns. He’s also the Dragons’ leading rusher with 814 yards and 15 scores on 103 carries. Walden has 59 catches for 874 yards and nine touchdowns.
“We know the circumstances there,” Broughton said. “Our kids are playing with a lot more confidence after the last couple wins. We’re just working hard to go out there and see what happens. Upsets happen all the time. So we’ll see what happens.”
Injuries have decimated Pendleton Heights’ offensive line throughout the season, and Broughton made the decision a few weeks ago to call up freshmen Dawson Farmer and Aaron Baudoux.
Farmer is 6-foot-2, 252 pounds and plays tackle. Baudoux is 6-3, 256 and is lining up at guard.
The idea was to get the youngsters some experience and begin building for the future. But it’s had an impact on the present as well.
The Arabians have scored 159 points in their past three games, including victories against Muncie South and Greenfield-Central in the past two weeks.
Quarterback Jesse Furrow has thrown for 1,586 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, and Pendleton Heights relies on a runnning game by committee.
Senior Jim Arney leads the team with 477 yards on 66 carries, junior Noah Etchison adds 407 yards on 48 attempts and junior Chris Clemons has 402 yards on 80 carries in just seven games.
The Arabians’ top receiver is Chandler Wilson with 33 catches for 620 yards and five scores, and Eren Davis has added 31 receptions for 439 yards and six touchdowns.
“We’re playing better now than when we played New Pal last time,” Broughton said. “We’ll just find out how much better we are.”