Sean DeLong produces big night for Gibson Southern in vital win over Heritage Hills

Kyle Sokeland
Evansville Courier & Press
  • Final: Gibson Southern 31, Heritage Hills 28

FORT BRANCH, Ind. — The same conversation likely comes up in the Gibson Southern football office each summer.

“Where are we going to put Sean DeLong this year?”

The senior hasn’t started in the same position in consecutive seasons. That’s by design and based on the needs of the roster. What’s never questioned is the importance DeLong plays. The Titans simply need and want to get him the ball by whatever means.

No. 10 Gibson Southern defeated previously unbeaten No. 2 Heritage Hills 31-28 on Friday at Jack Jewell Memorial Field, a result that didn’t feel as close for a significant portion of the second half.

Scoreboard:Here are the Week 6 Evansville-area high school football scores

A critical player once again? DeLong.

“He’s just a playmaker,” said Gibson Southern coach Nick Hart. “We want to find different ways to get him the ball. He gives us the ability to a lot of different things.”

The senior totaled 230 offensive yards and reached the end zone twice in a result that gives the Titans (4-2) first place in the PAC Large School Division. It doesn’t matter what position. He has produced numbers.

Gibson Southern’s Sean Delong (2) runs the ball as the Gibson Southern Titans play the Southridge Raiders in Fort Branch, Ind., Friday, Sept. 15, 2023.

DeLong was the starting tailback for the Class 3A state champions as a sophomore. A switch to slotback last season led to being the Titans’ leading receiver. This fall was a move into the backfield again. Having trouble keeping up? Opposing defenses likely are.

“I’m playing wideout a little bit, and I’ve never done that,” said DeLong. “It’s wherever I make the team better. That’s the beauty of me being versatile at different positions. I do whatever coach Hart says.”

The senior fought his way for a 21-yard touchdown catch late in the first half to put Gibson Southern up 21-7. His moment though came in the third quarter. DeLong took a handoff near his own end zone and cut right before seeing a gap in the middle of the field.

Gone. A 94-yard touchdown. He promised his offensive lineman Blizzards from Dairy Queen last week but may need to up the reward.

“It felt like track season,” DeLong said of that sprint. “I put my head down and ran as hard as I could. We knew they were getting tired. We were going tempo. That’s how it usually goes.”

Hart was hired at Gibson Southern in 2012. There’s always been a DeLong on his roster. Sam and Seth were multi-year starters. Their father, Scott, played for the Titans in the late 1980s. The pipeline will finally end after this season.

DeLong has 597 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns through six games. He’s reached the century mark in three of the past four weeks.

"I've had a (DeLong) all 12 years. That will be weird," said Hart. "I’m excited that we’re starting to have more success with him on the ground. Our young O-line continues to get better.”

There was much to like from a Gibson Southern perspective. The 31 points nearly matched what Heritage Hills had surrendered through five games. The Titans totaled 441 yards and took control with a 28-0 run midway through the game.

How it got so close was a sticking point after the game. Gibson Southern still has yet to start a game well. There were also four turnovers that allowed the Patriots (5-1) within striking distance late.

The play from Heritage Hills quarterback Jett Goldsberry (327 total yards, four touchdowns) also deserved recognition. As Hart said after the game, “He’s a problem.” The victory did show the Titans what is needed when playing with the lead.

Gibson Southern’s Tanner Boyd (10) passes as the Gibson Southern Titans play the Southridge Raiders in Fort Branch, Ind., Friday, Sept. 15, 2023.

Gibson Southern led 31-14 with 4:10 remaining. A pair of quick drives plus a turnover enabled the Patriots to only need an onside kick in the final minute to make it interesting.

“We kind of let our guard down,” said Hart. “It had a lot to do with (Goldsberry). He makes so many plays with his legs. We’ve started slow in every single game. We need to change something. More importantly, we got a really good win against a really good team.”

A victory indeed is significant. It’s a far cry from that first quarter against Boyle County in week one. A reminder Gibson Southern continues to improve week after week. Clean up a few mistakes and it will be a contender in the postseason once again.

“We have to know to keep going,” said DeLong.