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BACK TO WORK Jimmies prepare for No. 13 Blue Hawks

University of Jamestown quarterback Jordan Mann (1) prepares to hand the ball off during team practice Tuesday at Jimmie Turf Field. Michael Savaloja / The Sun

Jordan Mann is relishing his role as University of Jamestown starting quarterback.

The former Bismarck High product and the rest of the Jimmies broke a string of six consecutive season-opening losses with a thrilling 28-26 win over rival Valley City State last Saturday at Rollie Greeno Field. Mann completed 8-of-19 passing attempts for 131 yards and a score in his first game as the Jimmies' undisputed signal caller.

"It's really fun, I'm not gonna lie," Mann said. "It's a lot of work, obviously, studying a lot and everything like that along those lines. But I enjoy it."

The Jimmies were found hard at work Tuesday evening preparing for this weekend's opponent: 13th-ranked Dickinson State. But an entirely different atmosphere was felt at practice, which probably had something to do with the Jimmies finally wrestling the Paint Bucket Trophy out of the hands of the Vikings for the first time in nine Paint Bucket games.

"It was a big confidence booster," Mann said. "It really sent us into a game week that we need to be really prepared for against Dickinson."

One of the biggest changes for the Jimmies this week will be gearing up of the Blue Hawks' 3-4 defense, which benefits greatly playing in front of all-conference returners Jay Liggins at cornerback and Cain Boschee at safety. The Jimmies spent the past month preparing for, and eventually defeating, Valley City's 4-3 look.

"The world changes," Jimmie head coach Josh Kittell said. "Today was really mental and we had to make sure we got our assignments and our alignments right. It makes us look sloppy at times."

But all and all, Kittell said the focus was where it should be.

"Not bad. You know, when you've got 60 freshmen everything's a learning experience," Kittell said. "This was the first time they had to go to class all day and then come out and practice, so there's some growing pains."

Growing pains were present early against Valley City State, but that was to be expected. The Jimmies overcame an interception and turning the ball over on downs on a fourth-and-one while trailing 14-7 late in the first quarter.

The failed run handed the ball over to the Vikings on the Jimmies' 47-yard line, but the defense held tough, forcing VCSU quarterback Jalen Pfeifer to throw three straight incompletions.

"Fourth and one, with that o-line and our backs? We gotta get those," Kittell said. "There's definitely work to do, but there were also a lot of positives to build off of and at the end of the day we found a way to win in the fourth quarter, so that was exciting to see those guys do that."

Jamestown ran the ball effectively for most of the afternoon, especially in the second half. Running backs Jimmy Hatch (two touchdowns) and Allen Jevning combined for 182 yards on 34 carries.

The Jimmies were forecasted to tote the rock well, returning an experienced offensive line.

"Basically, it's just a mindset for us," said Anthony Vereen, Jamestown's 6-foot-3 senior starting left tackle. "Coach is always telling us that we want to be that team that runs the ball, so when we came out that first play we just made sure that everybody knew who we were."

Dickinson State also returns an experienced offensive line and a former Bismarck High quarterback in Hayden Gibson. Gibson tossed for 2,642 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2017.

The Blue Hawks finished last season at 9-2 and are 15-1 at home over the last three seasons.

"I think it goes back to us. We've gotta take care of our sideline first," Kittell said. "They've got a very good quarterback and a good o-line, so we've got to be physical in the box.

"Offensively we've got to win the line of scrimmage again, and if we do that's going to give us an advantage when we do get to the passing the game."

Jamestown hasn't defeated Dickinson State since 2007, a string of 14 consecutive losses to the Blue Hawks. But don't count out the Jimmies this Saturday in Dickinson (2 p.m. central) after knocking off Valley City State.

Vereen said: "As long as we put our best foot forward, then I think good things will happen."

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

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