Gibson Southern showed week to week improvement but lost to Whiteland, 24-7, at Jewell Memorial Field
Evansville Courier & Press
FORT BRANCH, Ind. — Gibson Southern football coach Nick Hart is a terrible loser.
Those are his exact words. Losing is not fun, nor will it be accepted in his program. But for the first time in his nine years, it’s happened in back-to-back weeks.
That isn’t his focus. The scheduled was beefed up for a reason. You don’t learn much walloping lesser teams by 60 points. But you also don’t just get better by playing tougher ones.
You get better by using what you learned in the six or seven days between those games. Hart wanted to see that improvement after week one. That’s what he got on Saturday.
The Titans lost their home opener to Whiteland, 24-7, at Jewell Memorial Field. It’s not the desired result. But if you watched Gibson Southern last week at Columbus North and compared it to now, there is a sizable difference.
That’s the goal. Use that to become the best team possible in October.
“I don’t like losing and it’s not okay. But I am proud of the jump we made from week one to week two,” said Hart. “Everybody thinks you get better by playing a tough schedule. That’s not true. The improvements we made, we figured out how the little things got us whooped last week. That made us focus on those and get better.
“To me, that’s what makes you better with playing a tough schedule.”
Gibson Southern’s Brady Allen (18) on a quarterback keeper tries to power his way through the Warrior defense as the Gibson Southern Titans host the Whiteland Warriors at Jewell Memorial Field in week two of Indiana high school football Saturday, August 29, 2020. (Photo: MIKE LAWRENCE / COURIER & PRESS)
Where were those improvements? Look at the defense, for one.
It wasn’t perfect by any means. Whiteland finished with 325 yards rushing with Chase Valentine (153 yards, including a 42-yard score) doing a lot of damage. The Warriors design their offense around ball control, especially against an offense as talented as Gibson Southern. Having possession for almost 30 minutes will win you most games.
But the Titans forced a pair of turnovers. The Warriors also punted the ball twice, something they didn’t do once last week in a win over Columbus East. Whiteland was held out of the end zone for most of the second half.
That jump that Hart wants was there. That’s after watching Columbus North run up and down the field last week. If improvement continues on that side of the ball each game, then there is a chance for big things.
“We got a heck of a lot better in eight days,” said Hart. “I thought those guys played their butt off. If we can continue that growth throughout the season, I think this team has a chance to be pretty special.”
This also might have turned into an interesting game if the Titans found ways to finish drives. Purdue commit Brady Allen finished with 171 yards on 20 of 37 passing, while Owen Bryant ran hard to add 66 on the ground.
Gibson Southern moved the ball in between the 20s. It was ending with scores that plagued the Titans. Bryant was stuffed on fourth down inside the 5 in the first half. Gibson also turned it over on downs across the 30 on two other possessions.
Whiteland did everything it could to keep Allen, who had two interceptions off balance. Coach Darrin Fisher understood just how good the kid can be.
“If they know what coverage you are in, they are going to pick you apart,” he said. “Making sure you throw short ball and rally to the ball and tackle well. Our plan defensively was pretty good. We mixed it up well.”
Hart still wanted to see his offense finish drives better. The missed opportunity in the second quarter inside the 10 hurt. Whiteland was up only one score. If the Titans find the end zone, who knows how the second half unfolds.
The Warriors marched back down the field after the fourth down stop. They led 17-0 at halftime and never truly relinquished control. Gibson Southern didn’t score until less than two minutes remaining on a 4-yard pass from Allen to Sean DeLong.
“We missed some stuff,” said Hart. “I need to do a better job with some schematics down there. We got a pretty good look on the fourth down but missed an assignment up front. Last week, we got inside the 30 twice and didn’t score. Today, it was inside the 20.”
The pieces are there for this Gibson Southern team to be very successful. A Division I quarterback with a receiving group that is getting deeper with the emergence of some younger kids. The defense also impressed at times, notably after halftime.
But what happens next is the true test. In the past, the Titans could get away with small mistakes most weeks. The issue lied when they were making them in the playoffs and there wasn’t time to correct them.
The little things were improved upon after last week. Not enough to win but enough to show that progress can and is being made. It can’t stop when the opposition is less than a Columbus North or Whiteland.
“If we start playing teams not as good as this and it’s not important to us,” said Hart. “Then these two weeks were a waste of time. When you get beat by 40, it helps get some things corrected. If we continue to make those jumps, we’ve got a chance to be pretty special.”
Follow Courier & Press sports Kyle Sokeland on Twitter @kylesokeland.