Gibson Southern football advances to semistate with tough win over Tri-West

Kyle Sokeland
Evansville Courier & Press

LIZTON, Ind. — Beau Rose has a confession to make. He felt unprepared when the request came to his attention.

The Gibson Southern junior is a linebacker and a rather good one. Word came from the coaches to line up in the backfield. The Titans required a physical runner on short yard distances. Rose fit the mold.

After processing the demand, what was his theory on making it work?

“Put your head down and run forward,” he said. “People will move out of the way.”

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The short-yardage bruiser scored three touchdowns to aid No. 6 Gibson Southern in a 38-21 victory over No. 8 Tri-West in the Class 3A regional championship Saturday. It is the second regional title in the past three seasons for Gibson Southern.

Gibson Southern celebrate their victory as Tri-West takes on Gibson Southern High School in the IHSAA 3A Regional Championship, Nov 11, 2023; Lizton, IN, USA; at Tri-West High School.

There was an obvious breakout name from this game. Rose had played some running back growing up but shifted his focus to defense at the varsity level. But as the postseason neared, the Titans (11-2) put the plan in motion.

These touchdowns weren’t just 1 or 2 yards at the goal line. One was from 40 yards. Good luck tackling him with that much downhill momentum.

“He’s our bruiser,” Gibson Southern coach Nick Hart said. “We did it last week and he made a big block on the sealing run. He was phenomenal, but it didn’t matter if it was him, Sean (DeLong) or Tanner (Boyd). Our O-line did an excellent job.”

Fair point. And that was a concern against a solid Tri-West defensive line. But the Titans’ offensive line, even with three sophomores, paved the way. Boyd scored from 34 yards to take the lead in the third quarter. DeLong grinded out several tough yards to extend drives.

The line deserved equal praise with the Titans totaling 265 rushing yards: DeLong 110, Boyd 88 and Rose 73.

The latter had the pivotal moments. His first put Gibson Southern on the board after falling behind 14. The second was the 40-yard touchdown on fourth down. A 19-yard score with two minutes remaining effectively clinched the game. Not bad for a player with five carries in his career before this weekend.

“We’ve been trying to hide it,” Rose said. “I was not prepared and kind of freaked out. I haven’t run the ball. I’m not very good at cutting. I started to warm up to it.”

The other reason Gibson Southern is still playing another week? A turnaround on defense.

Tri-West led 14-0 after two possessions. The first score, an 83-yard run from quarterback Malachi Walden, wasn’t ideal but happens. It was the second drive, a physical push forward by the Bruins (11-2), that concerned Hart.

Gibson Southern's Beau Rose (13) breaks away on a run for a score as Tri-West takes on Gibson Southern High School in the IHSAA 3A Regional Championship, Nov 11, 2023; Lizton, IN, USA; at Tri-West High School.

No scheme change needed; simply better execution. The Titans didn’t allow another point until 7:55 remaining in the game. The front four controlled the line of scrimmage and the secondary corralled a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions.

It was the second straight week that side of the ball toughened up late in a game. A fumble recovery against Vincennes Lincoln led to a game-sealing touchdown run.

“They had a guy at QB who could make plays,” Mason Scheller said. “We got caught sleeping. All it takes is a score and a stop. You’re right back in it. The game’s not over.”

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It wasn’t the first time the Titans had started slow this season. The victories over Mt. Carmel (Ill.) and Vincennes Lincoln are prime examples. But once again, Gibson Southern adjusted better than its opponent.

That’s the sign of a winning team, especially in the postseason.

“We started executing better and controlled the line of scrimmage,” Hart said. “We started playing more downhill and forcing the issue.”

Gibson Southern's Coach Nick Hart speaks to his team during a time out as Tri-West takes on Gibson Southern High School in the IHSAA 3A Regional Championship, Nov 11, 2023; Lizton, IN, USA; at Tri-West High School.

Gibson Southern next travels to conference rival Heritage Hills for a spot in the state championship.

Such an opportunity was anticipated but never guaranteed. The Titans took their lumps against talented out-of-state foes – Boyle County and South Warren were both playing this week in the Kentucky state tournament – but took valuable lessons from each test.

This team failed to win a sectional title a year ago. It’s now one game from a trip to Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Just continuing to compete and play,” Hart said. “They care a lot about each other and the program. They pick each other up. We have a great senior group who provides leadership and really sets the tone for this team.”