The Southport High School football program wins their first game after a 28-game losing streak. This was Southport’s first football win since Oct. 9, 2020 when the Cardinals defeated Terre Haute South, 50-36.
(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY STUDENT INTERN DARCY LEBER)
The joy displayed by Southport’s Cardinals and students on homecoming Friday night at Cardinal Stadium was a welcome scene – nearly three years in the making.
Players sprayed water on each other, jumped with joy and celebrated on the field as diehard students rushed the field, too.
Southport finally snapped a demonic 28-game losing skid by showing remarkable confidence and making big plays to dump visiting and winless Terre Haute North, 43-7.
“It was now or nothing,” contended senior offensive lineman Jesus Castillo. “We’ve worked so hard and finally got it – our first win, beautiful!”
Castillo is one of 15 Cardinals seniors who had never experienced a Southport varsity win until Friday.
“This senior class was sophomores my first year here, and these guys have stuck it out and grinded it out,” third-year coach Alex Bettag said. “I’m at a loss for words, I’m so proud of them.”
Until Friday night, the last Southport football team to win a game came Oct. 9, 2020 in Cardinal Stadium against Terre Haute South, 50-36 under coach Brandon Winters, now at Beech Grove.
The closest the Cards came to a win since then was a 28-21 home loss against North in 2021 and a 35-27 loss at Bloomington North last year.
Bettag’s third season began with optimism as senior quarterback Bryce Calvert started against Roncalli only to suffer a season-ending injury.
The Cardinals’ 20 points in the opener were the most until Friday night’s outpouring of 43 points. While rebuilding an offense with sophomore signal-caller Gavin Cummins, the Cardinals produced only 39 points in five games.
“They came in Monday (Sept. 25) believing they could win and that showed tonight,” coach Bettag said. “We had a great week of preparation; we knew we matched up well against North athletically across the board. We tipped the scales in our favor tonight.”
The Cardinals struck against the Patriots on offense and defense.
Southport led 15-0 at halftime, scoring first on a recovery of a North fumble in the end zone late in the first quarter and on a 25-yard TD pass from Cummins to senior Ti’Eric Campbell in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals defense held North to a mere 38 yards total offense thanks to senior Calvin Miller’s early-game pass interception and breakthrough tackles by Miller and junior Trent Baker.
The confident Cardinals exploded in the third quarter for three TDs on sophomore Jeremiah Stanovic’s 48-yard run, junior workhorse Tony Taylor’s 34-yard run, and junior Fabian Tapscott’s pick-6 interception for a 39-yard score.
Sophomore Riley Matlock set up his 1-yard TD in the fourth quarter with a 25-yard run that capped a 52-yard drive in the fourth quarter.
Unofficially, the Cardinals pounded out 257 yards rushing with Stanovic going for 136 yards, Taylor 77 yards, and Matlock 54 yards.
Southport’s now stout defense held North to 3 net yards on the ground and 142 yards passing, including a 79-yard halfback TD pass late in the fourth quarter.
(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY INTERN MORGAN HARMON)