MICHIGAN CITY — Just another game? Maybe.
With both Michigan City (4-5) and La Porte (2-7) coming into Friday's Class 5A Sectional 9 semifinal at Ames Field with sub-.500 records, there doesn't seem to be the hype surrounding the matchup, at least on the Wolves' end of the county.
"I don't know if it holds the weight that it did. Obviously playing for a sectional championship holds a little bit more weight," MC coach Phil Mason said. "I think (the teams' success) made it edgy, it got the towns involved, the community spirit up. I don't know if that's necessarily there right now. I think the kids are a little distanced from understanding it. We're starting to see kids phased out of it a little bit. I don't know if it's just the chemistry of our seniors, but we're the ones who have to pump it up. I hope for our sake it's just a cycle we were going through. I can tell you last year's group, the year before, it would've been very emotional."
Mason called the regular-season meeting, a 7-3 Wolves' win in Week 8 at Kiwanis Field, a hard, clean game, but not edgy.
"I'm sure they're going to be ready to play and have some stuff in the bag for us," Mason said. "I feel pretty good about where we're at."
That confidence is a result of Gio Laurent's development at quarterback in the weeks since, a 300-plus-yard performance in the following game, albeit a loss, at Crown Point.
"I hope offensively we're in a better place than we were at that point," Mason said. "I thought we got those wrinkles worked out against Crown Point and got some really good production. I would expect us to continue to be pretty productive. I'm not going to handcuff the kid anymore. We'll definitely be more balanced. Hopefully, the weather cooperates and we'll see him make the same kind of throws."
That would be a drastic contrast to the first meeting, when City was really run heavy.
"We were very conservative," Mason said. "I think we ran like three plays in the second half, then the one time we threw the ball, we almost gave them a touchdown. We had another situation where we had a touchdown called back on what I thought was a bad call. We just managed the field position with our special teams. The way our defense was playing, we were like, 'Let's get this over with and get out of here safely with a win.' That's all I cared about."
With Collin Bergquist, La Porte's second-leading rusher, hurt and out, Michigan City will face Robbie Kiner, a quicker quarterback who is more of a threat to throw. While Kiner is just 11 of 38 passing, his completions have averaged 17 yards.
"He's a little more (elusive) and will probably try throwing a little bit," Mason said. "I feel really good about our defense. It's locked down on what they're doing and hopefully we'll be a little too much team for them if we have our offense on track like we can."
Class 5A Sectional 9
La Porte (2-7) at Michigan City (4-5), 7 p.m.