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Giants, Indians ready for round three of series

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Photos by Scott Hunt/shunt@chronicle-tribuneSHOWDOWN: Marion and Mississinewa meet for the thirdconsecutive season in sectional play, the second straight in the title game. The Indians knocked off the Giants 21-14 in the 4A Sectional 21 semifinals in 2017 before winning the sectional title. Marion topped Ole Miss 26-9 lin last year's Sectional 21final. Each of those two games were playedat Fisher Field, Gas City. Mississinewa (10-1) plays Marion (9-2) to decidethe 4A Sectional 20 title at 7 p.m. today in Dick Lootens Stadium. Pictured areIndians' senior Cade Campbell andGiants' senior JK Thomas, who both could play pivotal roles in the outcome.
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SHOWDOWN: Marion and Mississinewa meet for the thirdconsecutive season in sectional play, the second straight in the title game. The Indians knocked off the Giants 21-14 in the 4A Sectional 21 semifinals in 2017 before winning the sectional title. Marion topped Ole Miss 26-9 lin last year's Sectional 21final. Each of those two games were playedat Fisher Field, Gas City. Mississinewa (10-1) plays Marion (9-2) to decidethe 4A Sectional 20 title at 7 p.m. today in Dick Lootens Stadium. Pictured areIndians' senior Cade Campbell andGiants' senior JK Thomas, who both could play pivotal roles in the outcome.

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

With all the mutual respect the coaches have shown, the Class 4A Sectional 20 football championship game between Marion and Mississinewa will end with players and coaches holding hands and singing Kumbaya.

"We got good athletes, they got good athletes," Marion coach Craig Chambers said. "It's going to boil down who will be the most disciplined and most fundamental (tonight)."

And his Mississinewa counterpart Curt Funk is equally effusive in his praise of the Giants.

"For sure, it's a big game for both communities," Funk said. "It's bragging rights for at least a year. Both programs have respect for each other and you want to see a good, fun game that lives up to the hype."

Yet, Act III in the Marion-Mississinewa playoff series would do justice to Ali-Frazier and other great boxing trilogies. There promises to be great intensity, hard hitting and some memorable plays between the rival schools separated by approximately seven miles and one river.

Game time is 7 p.m. at Marion's Dick Lootens Stadium and admission is $6. The winner advances to the regional round and plays the winner of Sectional 19 between second-ranked East Noble (11-0) and No. 10 Leo (10-1).

Ole Miss (10-1) gained the No. 5 ranking in the Associated Press' final 4A top 10 poll while the Giants (9-2) were seventh. The coaches have the Giants rated sixth and the Indians 10th. Sagarin's computer ratings has the Giants seventh and the Indians 13th in 4A.

"Coach Funk will have his guys ready and they'll be super excited about the game," Chambers said. "They are a quality ballclub and and it will be a great night for football. We will try to play the best we can and play up to our ability."

After avoiding each other for 44 years, the Giants and Indians were compelled to meet on the gridiron once again when the IHSAA placed them in the same sectional. The past two meetings were epic with the Indians beating the Giants for the first time ever 21-14 in the semifinals in 2017, and the Giants returning the favor 26-9 in the finals last year, both games were played at Ole Miss on Fisher Field.

"We've explained to our kids all week that they are the fastest team we've seen by far and they've got tremendous athletic ability and skilled players," Funk said. "We're going to have to be solid in all the phases of the game in order to win."

Both teams feature high-scoring offenses with the Giants ranked fourth in 4A at 40.45 points a game and the Indians fifth at 40.18. But Ole Miss also is tied for first in points allowed at 8.73, although Funk said the Giants' team speed will present a major challenge.

"We have got to contain them that's for sure because their speed is unbelievable," Funk said. "We got to play sound, disciplined football and just hope we're in the right spots."

Marion can stretch defenses thin with its multiple offensive options and versatility. Keshaun Taylor has been the Giants' regular quarterback, but he also has lined up at receiver or running back. While JK Thomas typically can be found in the slot, he has taken a turn as a conventional or wildcat quarterback.

Not to be forgotten, Khalid Stamps is a 1,000-yard rusher who has averaged more than 130 yards a game, and Braxstin Delgado has more than 400 yards in receptions and six touchdowns. Still, Thomas is the big playmaker who leads the Giants with 134 points on offense, defense and returns.

The Giants have become more reliant on run late in the season and averaging 265 yards on the ground. Taylor is approaching 1,000 yards as both a  passer and runner.

"It's tough to defend us, especially if our kids are playing fundamental and disciplined and they're playing with some excitement," Chambers said. "Other teams try to pound the ball down the field and use the clock trying to keep our offense off the field.

"We just got to come out and play fundamental," he continued. "We got to play fast and we just got to know what we're doing and we should be okay."

Mississinewa has been dominant on the ground as well, racking up 282.1 yards on average and had been doing it with multiple backs. However, once the playoffs started, senior Cade Campbell assumed a heavy workload and gained an average of 175.8 yards over the past five games.

Campbell ran for a career best 258 yards in the Indians' opening round sectional win over Delta and has 1,236 for the season even after missing three games with an ankle injury. Younger brother Carson Campbell is next with 788 yards and Tai McClung has picked up 494.

"Our seniors, this be their third sectional championship game," Funk said. "Seven of them started as sophomores and it's not new to them. They know what it takes."