Gibson Southern rallies late but falls short in PAC semistate showdown: 'It always stings'
LINCOLN CITY, Ind. — Tanner Boyd and Nick Hart shared a special moment postgame.
The Gibson Southern senior quarterback, with tears in his eyes, and his coach embraced for a lengthy hug after a heartbreaking loss to Pocket Athletic Conference Big School Division rival Heritage Hills. While the Titans were Class 3A state champions just two years ago, falling short of Indianapolis is a gut-wrenching feeling.
Gibson Southern's season is over following its 23-20 loss to the Patriots on Friday at "The Jungle." After winning four straight division titles, this was its first loss to a PAC Big School opponent since the divisions were introduced in 2020.
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The Titans refused to throw in the towel, though. They scored 20 unanswered points after trailing 23-0 midway through the third quarter. Boyd led his team in rushing with 91 yards and rallied them to a pair of touchdowns in the second half, including a six-yard scoring pass to junior Grant Stinson late to get within a field goal.
Still, it wasn’t enough.
“When you’re in the Final Four and you lose, it always stings because of what’s at stake,” Hart said. “When it gets this late (in the tournament), it’s so hard to get here. These opportunities are few.”
Boyd was one of the primary catalysts in Gibson Southern’s near comeback against Heritage Hills (13-1). So were the defense and special teams.
The Titans (11-3) had excellent field position following a long kickoff return in the third but turned it over on downs deep into Patriots territory. However, Gibson Southern immediately got the ball back after a Heritage Hills fumble to start the rally.
Boyd kept plays alive with his legs and found more of a groove with his receivers. The defense made key stops in order to get the ball back for the offense. And one of the Titans’ biggest keys against the Patriots was limiting their sophomore quarterback, Jett Goldsberry.
The defense remained solid as Goldsberry was limited to 124 total yards and a pair of touchdowns. And even though the Titans fell short, they liked the way they responded to adversity in the second half.
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“I think we stuck together and we’re a brotherhood,” Boyd said. “That’s all we can ask for our team.”
“These guys have done this all year,” Hart added. “Unfortunately, we’ve had some slow starts, but they just compete and care about each other. They weren’t going to quit or let their teammates down. So I’m proud of them for that.”
This has been a special senior group for Gibson Southern. They experienced what state was like as sophomores and were aiming to close out their high school careers there again. While that won’t happen, they still made a mark of their own on the program.
Sean DeLong has been one of the Titans’ most reliable playmakers and is the program's all-time leader in all-purpose yards. Jack Rose has been a force on the D-line as one of the team’s best tacklers. And Boyd has been an elite signal caller, throwing for nearly 2,400 yards and totaling 37 touchdowns this season.
“I think out of all the quarterbacks I’ve seen, he’s up there for me personally,” sophomore Brody Klem said of Boyd. “I’m really going to miss him. He’s a great player and teammate.”
While losing to Heritage Hills is painful, Hart reminded his team postgame to keep their heads up. The players poured their heart and soul into this season and did many great things.
The Titans who come back next fall are going to use this loss as fuel.
“I think we’re going to learn how to come out ready to play every single game, play as hard as we can and leave it all on the field,” Klem said.
Courier & Press sports reporter Treasure Washington can be reached via her email, email@example.com, and on X, formerly known as Twitter, @Twashington490.