FORT BRANCH — Brandon Winters won’t forget what he saw one June day in 2016, in a preseason football camp his first year as Southport High School head coach.
“It also was John Hart’s first year coaching at Brownsburg. Our teams were in that camp, as were East St. Louis (Illinois) and Gibson Southern,” said Winters.
“The thought hit me that ‘Gibson Southern may be 3A while John and I are 6A, but that’s a good team. We had an opening in our 2019 and 2020 schedules, so the next day I called John’s son Nick at Gibson Southern and asked him about playing each other in both those years.
“Nick said, ‘Let’s do it!’”
So the Titans, who have outscored 2A foes 152-21 in three starts and are ranked No. 2 in 3A by both The Associated Press and the Indiana Football Coaches Association, will travel to Indianapolis for a 1 p.m. CDT Saturday clash with Southport, whose 6A Cardinals also stand 3-0 after beating Indianapolis Roncalli 35-10, Indianapolis Perry Meridian 49-21 and, a Friday ago, 6A Columbus North 10-7 in overtime when junior Colbi Cocherell kicked a 19-yard field goal.
The teams will meet at Gibson Southern next September.
“This will be a great test for us,” said Nick Hart, whose Titans seek their 80th win around 12 losses since he debuted as head coach in 2012.
“We’re doing up there to win. But win, lose or draw, we’ll learn a lot about ourselves from this game. Southport has great talent including Ryan Lezon, their senior quarterback who is going to Ball State on a football scholarship. What an athlete! Last year he got over 1,000 yards as a receiver.
“They’re also very good upfront on both sides of the ball,” said Hart.
“Gibson Southern is fundamentally sound. It doesn’t take long to see that they’re well-coached,” said Winters, who has guided Southport to 21 wins around 13 losses in one of the nation’s largest cities.
“Their quarterback can make every throw,” he said of 6-foot-5 sophomore Brady Allen, who has completed 46 of 60 passes for 877 yards and 11 touchdowns without interception.
“Their defensive people get in the gaps and get to the ball well.
“Our defensive linemen and linebackers are juniors, but they’ve played well. So have our offensive linemen.”
Lezon is in his first season at quarterback after catching 74 passes for 1,069 yards and 14 TDs a year ago. “He’s going to Ball State as an H-back and tight end,” Winters said.
Now he’s quarterbacking a multiple offensive unit that starts three wide receivers -- 165-pound junior Carson Moore plus the sophomore duo of 170-pounders Mitchell Unversaw and Mason Piatt. Mason Munoz, a 6-5, 212-pound senior, plays tight end. Senior Peyton Cheatham centers, flanked at guard by 275-pound junior Jair Morgan and senior J.P. Ginsburg (240). Junior Joe Acker (265) and sophomore Charlie Schott (240) open at tackle.
“Defensively, their Jordan Tweedy makes a lot of plays,” Hart said of the 175-pound junior who is one of three safeties, including seniors Ben Martin (180) and Brayon Hogan (190). Junior Antonio Fischer (174) is a returning cornerback starter. Biggest defensive lineman is 255-pound junior David Chupp
Senior linebacker Max Beadles, 210-pound son of auto racers Stan and Samantha Beadles, leads Gibson Southern in tackles with 14 solos and 23 altogether. Junior linebacker Carter Green(195) has figured in 20 stops, including 9 solos. Senior safety Colton Stefanich(190) has been in on 14 hits.
Senior wide receiver Seth DeLong has been Allen’s top target, making 12 catches for 337 yards and 5 TDs. Senior tight end Adam May has made 9 grabs for 117 yards and 3 TDs. Senior running back Mitchell Spindler and sophomore wideout Logan Murfin have seven catches each. Senior kicker Jake Novotny is 18-for-18 on extra-points and has made 2 field goals.