ELKHART — Jimtown football coach Mike Campbell called it, "a tough pill to swallow."
He made that assessment after his team fell to No. 4-ranked (3A) Marian, 17-3, in a Northern Indiana Conference South Division showdown.
A fortunate bounce with 1:29 left in the game sealed the win for the Knights. Jayson Johnson's fumble recovery in the end zone for Marian after a six-yard run by Tyler DeBoe gave the visitors a two touchdown lead.
"When your at the bottom of a pile everybody thinks they have it," said Campbell about the late fumble. "Our guy said he didn't have it and I believe him."
It was a defensive struggle for most of the four quarters, as Marian totaled only 215 yards and Jimtown finished with only 176.
The offensive standout was Knights running back Malcolm Anderson, who started piling up the yardage in the second half. The 5-10, 197-pound junior rushed for 143 yards on 13 carries. Anderson compiled 127 of those yards on just eight carries in the second half. His 20 and 53-yard runs set up the score with 1:29 left in the game.
"I was walking with (Anderson) at halftime," said Marian coach Michael Davidson, whose team improved to 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the South. "In each of the last three weeks I've had to come over to him and tell him to quit bouncing with the football. When decides to get north and south and lowers his pads he's tough to bring down and he runs a lot more aggressively. You saw that in the second half."
Jimtown mustered most of its offense in the second half during a drive that started with 7:07 left in the game. Trailing 10-3, the Jimmies drove from its own 18-yard line to Marian's 39-yard line, with the big play being a 49-yard pass from Clay Campbell to Dustin Whitman. The drive ended when Marian's Michael Schnippel intercepted a Campbell pass in the end zone with 3:34 left in the game.
"We took some shots and some of them worked and some of them didn't," Mike Campbell said. "All of our kids are just trying to play as hard as they can. I'll have to look at (the interception) and see exactly what broke down.
"But our kids kept fighting. I know they're disappointed, but they should be proud of the way they played."
In the first half, Jimtown did a nice job of possessing the ball and eating clock, which kept Marian's potent offensive off the field. The Jimmies ran 32 plays, compared to only 14 for the Knights over the first two quarters. Marian had only 65 yards and two first downs in the first half.
"We had some long drives (in the first half) and moved the ball," Mike Campbell said. "We were excited about coming out in the second half and getting the ball.
"(Marian) kind of made some adjustments (in the second half) and we didn't really get to move the ball as well as we wanted to."
The lone touchdown in the first half came with 1:01 left in the first quarter when Marian quarterback Maddix Bogunia threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Colin Kerr. The 6-foot-4 Kerr leaped over a Jimtown defensive back in the left corner of the end zone to get the ball.
Both teams had miscues to overcome during the first half. Jimtown lost a fumble and had a 34-yard field goal blocked, while Bogunia threw an interception in the end zone, which was caught by Clay Campbell, and was part of bad snap that led to a recovery by the Jimmies' Tony Pletcher.
Pletcher's fumble recovery at Marian's 27-yard line set up a 26-yard field goal by Jimtown's Isaac Daniels with :03 left before halftime.
"We keep getting better each week," Mike Campbell said. "It's disappointing that we came up a little bit short against a very good football team.
"Hand it to (Marian). They're very well coached and a very physical football team and very good defensively. But our kids came to play tonight. There's a couple of opportunities that we didn't take advantage of and they did. A handful of plays were the difference."
Marian took a 10-3 lead with :42 left in the third quarter after Hunter Renner made a 26-yard field. A facemask penalty on the play before the field goal by Jimtown gave the Knights better field position on the kick.
"We preached all week that it was a championship week," Davidson said. "It wasn't clean. We made a lot of mistakes. But we showed great resiliency. We haven't been tested like that and it was great to see our kids fight through it and overcome a lot of obstacles."
Marian had outscored its opponents, 189-21, entering Friday's game.
MARIAN 17, JIMTOWN 3
Scoring By Quarters
M — Colin Kerr 24 pass from Maddix Bogunia; Hunter Renner kick; 1:01.
J — Isaac Daniels 26 field goal; 03.
M — Renner 26 field goal; :42.
M — Jayson Johnson fumble recovery in end zone; Renner kick; 1:29.
Marian: Rushing — Malcom Anderson 13-143, Maddix Bogunia 11-33. Passing — Bogunia 4-7-33 (1 int.). Receiving — Colin Kerr 1-24, Mitchell Floran 2-6. Interceptions — Michael Schnippel. Fumble recoveries — CJ Njuguna. Sacks — Mitchell Menting 1.5, Isaac Hibbs .5.
Jimtown: Rushing — Cole Thompson 17-41, Ethan Devol 13-30, Clay Campbell 11-24. Passing — Campbell 4-11-67 (1 int.). Receiving — Dustin Whitman 1-49, Tony Pletcher 1-9, Andrew Cortez 1-8. Interceptions — Campbell. Fumble recoveries — Pletcher.