For a family reason, Gibson Southern's football Homecoming is also a homecoming for the rival coaches.
Brothers-in-law Jared Maners and Nick Hart will oppose each other for the third straight year when Maners sends Princeton Community against Hart and Gibson Southern at 7 p.m. Friday in the Titans' Homecoming on Jack Jewell Memorial Field.
"It's a little bittersweet, but it's another game and we have a job to do," said Maners, whose Tigers seek to rebound from last Friday's 55-13 loss to Mount Carmel that dropped their record to 1-3.
"There are no hard feelings. Nick and I root for each other," added the husband of Lady Tigers basketball coach Brittany Hart Maners.
"Opposing Jared isn't something I look forward to. It's probably more hard than good because both of us want to win. But it's another matchup, and we must correct the mistakes we made last week," said Hart, whose Titans fell 43-35 Saturday at 6A Southport after one-sided wins in their first three games.
The Titans, ranked No. 2 in 3A last week by both The Associated Press and the Indiana Football Coaches Association, now are No. 3 according to the coaches and No. 5 according to AP. West Lafayette and Indianapolis Bishop Chatard, where Southport will play Friday, stand 1-2 in both polls. Heritage Hills, where Gibson Southern will play a September 27 Pocket Athletic Conference showdown, is No. 3 in the coaches' voting and No. 5 by AP.
Hart's Titans, who have won 79 times around 13 losses in seven-plus seasons, seek to repeat Gibson County rivalry wins of 58-12 on The Jewell in 2017 and 46-0 in Princeton last season.
Matter of fact, the Tigers haven't outscored Gibson Southern since 2001, when as visitors they prevailed 23-22. Despite losing 27-6 at home in 2004, they became forfeit victors when Gibson Southern realized that one of its players, a late-game substitute, was residentially ineligible. So officially, the Titans have won the last 16 meetings; on the
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scoreboard, they've won the last 19. Officially, they've won 33 times around 15 losses in the rivalry that began in 1974 when Haubstadt, Fort Branch and Owensville consolidated into Gibson Southern.
The Tigers hope to emulate the passing game with which Southport quarterback and Ball State recruit Ryan Lezon burned the Titans.
"Princeton's Gerit Bock throws the ball well," Hart said of the lefthanded senior who has completed 57 of 113 passes for 905 yards and 4 touchdowns against 3 interceptions.
"Their receivers are making plays," Hart said of a group led by junior Dominic Hardiman and senior Braden Matthews. Hardiman, whose 6-foot-5 frame matches Southport's Matt Munnoz and reminds of Saturday's nine catches by 6-3 Brevin Jefferson, has caught 27 passes for 363 yards (13.1 average), including a touchdown. The 6-3 Matthews has caught 22 for 410 yards (18.6 average) and 2 TDs.
Maners said senior Darrion Madison, who figured to be Princeton's top runner, remains idled by a foot sprain suffered the first series of a Week 2 loss at 5A Terre Haute North. "I don't know if Darrion will play next week at Jasper, but he'll probably be able to play the Friday after that at Boonville," said the coach, who has seen junior Ben Heidenreich step up with 149 yards in 32 carries (4.9 average). Bock's 33 carries, including scrambles, have brought 136 yards (4.1 average).
"Hopefully our coverage will be better than it was at Southport," Hart said. "We probably won on 75 to 80% of the plays, but the 20 or 25% we lost decided the game. Our pass coverage must be better."
The Tigers will be challenged by 6-5 sophomore quarterback Brady Allen, a future Division I college recruit who has completed 65 of 90 passes (72.2%) for 1,157 yards and 14 TDs vs. 2 interceptions. Both picks came at Southport.
"This will be an uphill battle for us. We must rebound from last Friday's low," Maners said.
"Gibson Southern can do many things. Allen is a very talented guy who has good footwork to go along with his good arm. But he's still young, and we must apply pressure that makes him throw passes he doesn't like to throw."
Allen spreads the ball around. Senior wide receiver Seth DeLong and senior tight end Adam May have each made 14 catches -- DeLong's grabs have brought 546 yards and 5 TDs, May's 188 yards and 4 TDs. Senior running back Mitchell Spindler is a dual-threat, having rushed 335 yards including 7 TDs in 50 carries (5;.6 average) while also making 11 catches. The latter total is matched by senior wide receiver Ben Butler, who missed one game and most of another due to an ankle sprain.
While Hart pronounced the Titans healthy, Maners said the Tigers are not -- for more reasons than Madison's absence. Junior center Briar Christy will again sit out due to a concussion, so 255-pound freshman Alex Kling will make a second straight start. Sophomore Caleb Herrin (200) will start at offensive right guard. The team does regain sophomore wide receiver Myles Carey from injury and he's expected to see action.