Ten years after coming out to the corn fields of Fort Branch to resurrect a husk of a football program, Gibson Southern head coach Nick Hart has established a pigskin power. Poised to make big noise in 2020, the Titans came up just short against Southridge in the 3-A playoffs.
"Missing a lot last year," Gibson Southern senior quarterback Brady Allen. "Not building that chemistry that we had the two years before. Missing that time and not having the chemistry and then going into those first two games against two really good opponents, didn't give us the good start as we wanted. We kind of hit stride early in the season, and then came upon a really good Southridge team and came up short."
"Just didn't get it all put it together the way we'd like to for whatever reason," says Gibson Southern head coach Nick Hart. "Schedule had something to do with that. Looking at it now, we have a lot of guys back. Which is really exciting going into this year."
And the biggest piece that's returning, stands the tallest, 6-5 senior quarterback Brady Allen. The Purdue-bound signal caller threw for more than 25-hundred yards and 31 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions, as he contiues to develop from a raw freshman starter 3 years ago.
"Phenomenal, as he has been the whole time," says Hart. "The more you play, the game just slows down. It's not that he didn't understand what was going on before, but the game's slowing down to what we're trying to do. What the defense is trying to do. When you have those number of reps that he's had, and he's had a lot of them, that just helps. He's had a fantastic off-season and I think he's primed to have his best year yet."
"I'm at the best point I have been," says Allen. "Spending a lot of time this off-season fixing things from feet up to the mental part of the game. So, I think I'm farther ahead than I have been and it feels really good. I'm looking forward for a great season."
However, a great quarterback is nothing without good receivers, and Allen has a boatload, beginning All-State wide-out Rory Heltsey and Brayden Malone.
"Rory's a returning starter from last year." says Hart. "He's got an Air Force offer and some FCS offers to go with that. He's a great football player. We have a handful of other guys that are very capable of catching the football. So, that's an exciting group for us. Obviously, they have a great guy getting them the football."
"Having him around is huge for us." says Allen. "Huge for our offense. We can do a lot of things with him. And we've got a lot of really good parts around him. So, they can't just guard Rory. We've got other guys to go with him. That's another big part of our offense."
Also in that category is the offensive line, which features four seniors. Hart will need that muscle up front to diversify his attack, with sophomore Sean DeLong slated to carry the rock.
"I do think we have to run the ball better than what we did last year," says Hart. "It starts with me. I think it's easy to sit back there and throw pass plays when you have Brady and some of the receivers that we have. We've got be more creative in how we run the football. We saw a lot of light boxes last year and we've got to do a better of job of attacking those boxes with the run game."
"Last year, teams just expected pass the whole time," says Malone. "So, opening up the run game, that will help us out a lot."
"It's huge for us," says Allen. "The better we run the ball, the better we can pass the ball, and vice versa. I think Sean's going to come in and do a great job for us. He's shifty, he's quick and he can run people over too. So, having him the backfield with a mix of other people is going to be awesome."
With the Titan's Goliath offense, the defense has played the role of silent partner in the past. However, with most of the starters back, Hart expects the "D" to start making some noise as well.
"I'm excited about them," says Hart. "We have seven guys back, that are returning starters on the back end. So, all those guys have started high school football. We return an all-conference guy at end. I think this could be one of the better defenses that we've had here. So, we're really, really excited about that side of the ball."
How confident is Hart with this edition of the Titans? The schedule opens with monumental match-ups against Columbus North and New Albany, then a week four match-up with perennial Kentucky power South Warren.
The Titans open the season at home against Columbus North Friday, August 20th.