Jimtown football coach Mike Campbell knows you can't take any team for granted during the high school playoffs.
It's usually the best way to be home the following Friday night.
In the opening round of the Class 3A sectional, the Jimmies (5-4) will host Garrett (3-6) at Sharpe Stadium. The game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
Jimtown opens the postseason looking for it's first sectional title since 2014. Two of those sectional disappointments came in the finals to Garrett. The Railroaders beat Jimtown 24-7 in 2015, before edging the Jimmies in a terrific game 29-26 in 2016, when Garrett recovered a late Jimtown fumble.
"Obviously, we know Garrett well, but they're a much different team now,'' Campbell said. "When we played them a few years ago, they had some speed on the outside and passed the ball some. Now, they just play more downhill and come right at you ... a smashmouth kind of team. They'll run some mis-direction, but they want to be physical with you more than anything.''
Garrett's top rusher is senior Clayton Fielden, who has gained 744 yards this season and is averaging 5.8 yards-per-carry. He's followed by junior Seth Van Wagner's 580 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Levi Follett has completed 47 of his 104 passes this season for 789 yards and five scores. However, he has thrown eight interceptions.
"When you watch them on film, they are a very good football team,'' Campbell said. "We can't get caught just looking at their record, because they can do a lot of different things and are very good offensively. They had some turnovers that have hurt them and they've played some good teams in their conference. They will be a lot for us to handle on Friday.''
The Jimmies have won three straight since a loss to Concord on a Saturday afternoon, and while the offense has averaged nearly 44 points-a-game in those wins, it's the defense that has really stood out.
"I believe our defense starts from the top down,'' Campbell said. "Our defensive line is really the unsung heroes of the defense. If Hunter Hoffman and Tony Pletcher and Yvens Reisaker and Quinton Svetanoff aren't absorbing blocks and keeping the offensive line off our linebackers and safeties, then we'll have trouble. But those guys have done a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage and letting the rest of our defense fly around.
One of the players coming up untouched has been safety Clay Campbell, who leads the team with 71 tackles this season – including 49 solos. Linebackers Casey Pratt and Jacob Werts rank second and third in tackles.
Like Garrett, Jimtown's offensive strength is running the football. The Jimmies have four players with over 200 yards rushing, led by junior Ethan Devol's 764 yards and 515 from classmate Cole Thompson. Campbell's team has had nine different players score touchdowns this season.
"I do believe we've honed-in on what we want to do offensively,'' Mike Campbell said. "We have a lot of guys touching the football and contributing. Plus, our offensive line has been really good and when you get that kind of production from the guys up front, you'll move the ball.''
Campbell added that senior Tre Washington, who tore his ACL during basketball season and missed the first give games this year, continues to progress. Washington led Jimtown with 831 yards rushing in 2018. He's averaging 8.9 yards-a-carry since his return and has scored three touchdowns.
"We really like Trey's versatility,'' Campbell said. "We've split him out wide, used him as a wing and a tailback. He's also settled in defensively at a safety spot.''
• NORTHWOOD-WAWASEE: NorthWood hopes a huge win over Plymouth in its final regular season game will be a springboard to a run in the Class 4A playoffs.
Coach Nate Andrews Panthers (6-3) open sectional play at Jim Andrews Field against a familiar rival – Northern Lakes Conference rival Wawasee (2-7) – a team they beat 40-10 in September.
Panther quarterback Nate Newcomer continues to get better each week and the junior should go over 1,000 yards rushing this week against the Warriors. Newcomer, who missed the first Wawasee game this year with an injury, has rushed for 982 yards, while also completing 40 of his 77 passes for 728 yards and eight touchdowns.
Senior Jaden Miller is coming off a three-touchdown performance against Plymouth last week and is second on the team with 668 yards rushing. Ben Mestach and Veshon Malone are also solid running threats for the Panthers.
Wawasee's top offensive threat is wide receiver Ethan Garza, who has caught 30 passes this season, Garza's best outing came against NorthWood, when he caught five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.
• CHANGES: There are a two notable changes on Friday in a site and a start time.
With South Bend Washington playing Tippecanoe Valley at South Bend's School Field, the Class 5A game featuring Elkhart Central (7-2) and South Bend Adams (0-9) will be played at South Bend Clay. It will be the Blazers first game on a grass field this season.
Like Jimtown and Garrett, Fairfield (4-5) and Bluffton (7-2) will kickoff at 7:30 because of the distance Fairfield will travel on Friday.
Elkhart Central vs. SB Adams*
Wawasee at NorthWood
East Noble at Northridge
Garrett at Jimtown, 7:30
Fairfield at Bluffton, 7:30
* At SB Clay
All games are at 7 unless noted.