MISHAWAKA — It was a defensive struggle in the regular season meeting this year between Jimtown and Marian.
In a game where the two teams totaled only 391 yards, the visiting Knights eventually prevailed 17-3.
The rematch comes this Friday at 7 p.m. in Mishawaka, with a lot more at stake, as a Class 3A sectional championship trophy will be the prize to the winner of this week's contest.
The conditions look to favor another defensive battle between the two squads. Temperatures are expected in the 30's and the field might be choppy, with usage and weather affecting the grass surface.
Jimtown has given up only 172 points this year in posting a 7-4 record, while No. 4-ranked Marian has been even more stingy. The 10-1 Knights have allowed only 72 points.
"I think both defenses have gotten better over the course of the season," said Jimtown coach Mike Campbell. "I could see a defensive game happening again. Their defense is good, fast and experienced. Our defensive line, in particular, has really put it together from week one to now."
"I think both teams are like-minded when it comes to defense," said Marian coach Michael Davidson. "Schematically, we might do a couple different things. Over the course of the last couple of years against them we've had defensive-oriented games. Jimtown has a tremendous defense and we have all the respect in the world for them."
On offense, both teams want to establish the running game.
Jimtown, which has scored 293 points, relies on several players to carry the ball. Ethan Devol leads the way in rushing yardage with 992 yards on 172 carries. He's scored 11 touchdowns. Others who have contributed in the ground game are Cole Thompson (615 yards), Trey Washington (310 yards), Oscar Zelaya (279) and quarterback Clay Campbell (248). Washington gained his yardage in just six games, as he missed time at the start of the season because of an ACL injury suffered last year during basketball season.
Campbell has also completed 47-of-104 passes for 689 yards and four touchdowns.
"We need a big game (against Marian) from Campbell running and throwing," Mike Campbell said. "Trey has to be able to stretch out their defense. Ethan Devol has to get tough yards for us on the ground, which he has done for us this year. It can't be a one man show for us out there. We've got to have guys make plays for us running and catching the ball. Also, in championship games you have to execute in critical situations."
Along with getting back Washington for the second meeting against the Knights, Jimtown will have the services of standout offensive lineman Jacob Koets, who missed the first game against Marian with an MCL sprain.
"The great thing is that we get Koets back," Mike Campbell said. "Our offensive line has been getting better every week. They're moving people."
Marian, which has scored 430 points this year, is led by the talented tandem of junior quarterback Maddix Bogunia and junior running back Malcom Anderson.
Bogunia has completed 86-of-151 passes for 1,185 yards and 18 touchdowns. He's also rushed for 359 yards on 80 carries with 13 touchdowns. Anderson has rushed for 734 yards on 97 carries with 10 touchdowns. He suffered a minor knee injury in the first game against Jimtown and missed two games.
"Marian's backfield is pretty exceptional," Mike Campbell said. "Their quarterback is elusive. He can stretch the field with his legs and arm. Their running back is one of those exceptional talents. He makes the first guy miss. He's a big, strong kid with breakaway speed. It's like a two-headed monster back there."
Expect some new wrinkles when the two squads meet Friday night.
"We've made some adjustments based on the first game," Davidson said. "Jimtown gave us all we could handle the first time."
Will playing at home benefit Marian?
"Playing a good program like Jimtown, I don't know if it helps us necessarily," Davidson said. "Whether you play bad or good or win or lose (in the first game) playing a team a second time isn't easy. Mentally, the winning team has to have the perspective of ignoring the first game and focusing on the second meeting. The motivation for the other team is to prove that the other game was a fluke and come out and show everyone that you have the better team."
"There is something about playing at home," Mike Campbell said. "I think that favors them a little bit. It's a hard place to go win. I've won there once since I've been the head coach at Jimtown. I know their surface is a little different. Their field is a little beat up this time of year. It has been in the past."
Injury-wise, both teams appear to be in good shape.
"We're not expecting to hold anybody out," Mike Campbell said.
"We're a little healthier than we were last week," Davidson said. "We had a guy out because of a concussion and a couple kids sick. But we've had a good week of practice. Any time you're playing for a sectional championship you have a little bit of a bounce in your step."
Davidson won't be completely healthy on the sidelines, as he's dealing with a pulled calf muscle.
"I'll be there," the Knights coach said. "I'm getting old. I got hurt running around. It just gave out."
Marian is going for its fifth straight sectional title and its 10th overall, while Jimtown has won 22 sectional titles with the last one coming in 2014.
"We're more of a cohesive unit now compared to the beginning of the year," Mike Campbell said. "The team is practicing hard and everyone likes each other. The confidence and trust between the players has grown. It always comes down to trust and effort. If you trust the guy next to you and play as hard as you can what more can you ask for as a coach."