Gibson Southern football overcomes double-digit deficit to win program’s first state title
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WFIE) - The Gibson Southern football team rallied from a 19-point deficit in the first half to come away victorious in the Class 3A state championship game, winning 45-35 over Brebeuf Jesuit at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday afternoon.
After trailing 26-7 in the second quarter, the Titans stepped up to the challenge by scoring 31 unanswered points to take the lead for good, and claiming their first state title in program history.
One of Gibson Southern’s standouts on the big stage was wide receiver Rory Heltsley. He finished with 218 receiving yards and 13 receptions, setting a 3A state title single-game record in both categories.
Titans’ quarterback and Purdue commit Brady Allen closed out his high school career by completing 28-of-50 passes for 383 yards. The senior also threw for five touchdowns and three interceptions.
Prior to Friday’s championship game, Allen had only thrown three picks in the entire 2021 season.
“It’s been our motto all year - stick together, don’t let our bond break,” Allen said. “It’s a special group. That’s why we were able to come back, it’s special. I couldn’t have asked for a better team, better group of coaches, to go out this way. It’s a dream come true.”
“We knew the team we had, and we knew that we could go and come back from this,” Heltsley said. “We had a lot of mistakes early, and all we had to do was turn some things around and gain some confidence and we could really do something special, and come back and win this game. When we’re older, we can go back and watch this game, and show our kids that whenever you’re in sports and you’re down, you still got a chance to come back and win a great game.”
On the other side of the ball, it was a tale of two halves for the Gibson Southern defense. In the first 20 minutes of play, the Titans got carved by Brebeuf Jesuit’s offensive attack, which racked up 29 points heading into halftime.
However, the tide began to turn for the gold and crimson late in the second quarter.
Trailing 29-14 with less than four minutes to go in the half, Gibson Southern’s Peyton Rogers snagged an interception on a pass that bounced off a Brebeuf Jesuit receiver. Giving the Titans a chance to cut it to a one-score game, this much-needed spark leads to Allen finding Heltsley for one of their three touchdown connections of the game, closing the gap to a 29-21 advantage for the Braves.
In the following defensive possession, defensive back Noah Bryant grabbed a pick of his own with under one minute left, providing Allen and his offensive arsenal with another opportunity to put up some more points. Starting deep in Brebeuf Jesuit territory at the 24-yard line, Allen and Heltsley would only need a few plays to find the end zone again, cutting the Braves lead to 29-28 right before halftime.
The sudden momentum shift ultimately bled over into the second half as the Titans scored again on the opening drive, taking their first lead of the day, 35-29.
Carrying on the momentum established from its late first-half heroics, Gibson Southern’s defensive unit batten down the hatches in the second half, allowing Brebeuf Jesuit to score only six points in total. In the end, this resurgence on defense helped the Titans pull off the 38-9 turnaround against the Braves.
“These kids have done so much to try to get here,” Gibson Southern head football coach Nick Hart said. “They’ve had some tough losses in the tournament along the way too, so to finish it off here with everything they’ve done, our community support - that was unbelievable.”
Hart now joins his father, John, on the list of high school coaches to win a state championship in football, making them the second father-son duo to ever accomplish the feat in IHSAA history.
Gibson Southern wraps up its historic season with a 14-1 record.
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