Gibson Southern's dominant win over Southridge showcases its growth since season began
- Final: Gibson Southern 38, Southridge 10
FORT BRANCH, Ind. — Nick Hart wouldn’t have it any other way.
This schedule is curated with a purpose. It doesn’t matter who or where. Gibson Southern will play opponents designed to make it better. It’s why Friday night played out the way it did.
The Titans offered a reminder of their ultimate potential in a 38-10 victory over Southridge at Jack Jewell Memorial Field. The finer details could be crisper and it doesn’t count in the conference standings. Yet, Gibson Southern still beat an experienced team by four scores.
“We've grown a lot in these past four weeks," said Hart. "We're starting several sophomores. They had to become varsity players faster by playing those teams. It's huge. I think we've made a ton of growth."
The Class 3A No. 12 Titans are 3-2 at the midway point. Context also matters.
Those two losses were to a pair of top-ranked teams in Kentucky (Boyle County, South Warren). There was a close win against Mount Carmel (Ill.). Gibson Southern lined up against athletes it may not see the rest of the season.
A one-score game at halftime with the Raiders (3-2) was no longer in doubt midway through the fourth quarter. This isn't the same Titan team that left Western Kentucky University in Week 1.
"You don't see that type of talent around here," said senior Mason Scheller. "You still have to come into every week with the same mentality. We knew this was going to be a challenge. We gave up a few big plays, but that's football. I trust these guys with all of my heart."
The second half shows their growth through five weeks.
Gibson Southern led 17-10 with the ball after the break. It lost a fumble on the second play of the third quarter. What followed was arguably its best stretch of the season.
A Southridge punt followed by a 96-yard drive capped by a 19-yard touchdown from Sean DeLong. A Scheller interception set up a short Tanner Boyd touchdown pass to Gunner Alexander. DeLong added another with 4:48 remaining. Three touchdowns in roughly nine minutes of game clock.
The next step is getting out of the gate quicker. Still having room to grow from a 28-point win against a solid team is a good problem.
"I thought we had a great response after halftime," said Hart. "Our defense got out of the gate and the offense was slow. We kind of flipped roles in the second quarter. We have to win the box and thought our guys up front did a good job."
Outside of the start against Boyle and the finish versus South Warren, the Gibson Southern defense has been solid. It has allowed 31 total points in three victories. The progression from the offense, notably the line, might be the difference.
DeLong totaled 142 yards on 21 carries with two scores. Boyd added another 104 on the ground to go with 122 yards passing on 12 for 18 attempts. If opponents attempt to limit big plays, the Titans need to run the football. It passed the test against a defense with a pair of shutouts.
"The jump our O-line had from week one to now is crazy," said DeLong. "I'm getting all of them guys Blizzards at some point. In the first half, we had a couple of mental mistakes. Going into halftime, it was just everyone do your job."
Guess what? The schedule doesn't get easier with No. 3 Heritage Hills (5-0) coming to Jewell Field next week. This game could be the de facto PAC Big School Division championship. Who knows, maybe it's a possible precursor to a postseason battle.
Just remember, Hart and the Titans want it this way. The results are showing at the midway point.
"We've learned to play against some great athletes,” said Hart. “That helped us tonight. It's going to help us next week. To be in a tight ball game, those are the type of things I think we get out of playing those games.”
Follow Courier & Press sports reporter Kyle Sokeland on X (formerly Twitter) @kylesokeland.