TIPTON, Mo. — Following its two toughest games of the regular season, Tipton has shifted its focus onto using its last couple games to try to peak going into districts.
After the Cardinals were beaten handily on the road by Kaysinger Conference rivals Lincoln and Cole Camp, tonight will bring a different challenge — Lighthouse Christian.
At this point in his 20th season leading Tipton, Tony Braby likely isn't phased by facing an opponent for the first time in his tenure. This year alone, Tipton has played against Knob Noster and Liberal for the first time under Braby.
But Lighthouse Christian is unique even in that sense.
A non-MSHSAA team located in Springfield, Lighthouse Christian is an athletic program for homeschooled students. The Chargers are 5-2 this season and have won games against teams from Tulsa, Okla. and Edwardsville, Ill.
"(Lighthouse Christian) will spread you out and just throw the ball all over the place or they'll bring everyone on the line and just power at you," Braby said. "I think they just kind of pick and choose what's working, so we're preparing for both."
The last two weeks have prepared Tipton to deal with an unpredictable offensive team like Lighthouse Christian. In Week 6 against Lincoln, the Cardinals saw a spread passing attack predicated on speed on the outside. Last week, they were up against a power run team in Cole Camp.
Either way, the Cardinals will have to learn from those defeats if they're to get back on track tonight against the Chargers.
"I don't think we've played our best football yet," Braby said. "We still have that to kind of aim for."
Turnovers plagued Tipton last Friday in Cole Camp, as the Blue Birds' first three touchdowns all came following turnovers by the Cardinals. Senior Braiden Brownfield will remain under center for Tipton after taking over at quarterback less than a month ago.
"We've changed from going under center to shotgun, which is going to give (Braiden) a little more time to throw," Braby said. "We threw it deep a couple times against Cole Camp and connected on one slant and one out.
" I want to make defensive backs aware that we can throw the ball downfield. We want to use throwing more as part of our offense. I think it will help the running game out and they'll kind of go hand-in-hand."
Brownfield is one of several Tipton seniors who contributes on both sides of the ball due to the small roster size.
Though the Cardinals are a young team overall, seniors like Ricky Capestro, Tate Combs, Tyler Pierson, Seth Gibson and Drew Williams provide plenty of experience having been involved on nearly every snap in each of the last two seasons.
"It's a good, solid group of seniors," Braby said. "I can't complain about their dedication or their hard work for me, whether it's practice or in the games. We're not having quite the senior year they anticipated, but they still make going to practice and the games fun."
Despite having two regular season games left to play, Tipton almost certainly knows its opponent for the first round of district — Appleton City. The Bulldogs are 5-2 and are currently the No. 4 seed in Class 1 District 4.
The Cardinals will likely end up in the No. 5 spot, though they still have a chance of getting up to fourth and getting a home district game. Tipton and Appleton City have shared one common opponent this season, as both teams beat Windsor early in the year.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. in Tipton.
Updates on Twitter: @LCChargers