TIPTON, Mo. — Every team's goal is to be peaking at this time of the season, but not all are able to achieve it.
For Tipton (3-6), however, that may actually be the case. The Cardinals are on the heels of a 44-22 win against Concordia last Friday night. Not only were the 44 points Tipton's highest scoring output of the year, but it also won while playing the last quarter-and-a-half with a running clock.
"We played a really clean game that we were happy and pleased with," Tipton coach Tony Braby said. "We kind of had our way with (Concordia)."
The Cardinals will look to roll their momentum into a matchup with Appleton City in the No. 4 versus No. 5 game in Class 1 District 4.
On the road tonight, Tipton gets an unfamiliar foe in the Bulldogs (7-2), but the Cardinals are used to such matchups at this point. During the regular season, they faced first-time opponents in Knob Noster, Liberal and Lighthouse Christian.
"Appleton probably throws the ball a little more than we do," Braby said. "They spread you out, but they're still probably a run-oriented team."
Tipton and Appleton City share one common opponent in Windsor. The Cardinals defeated Windsor 26-12 in Week 3 while Appleton City topped the Greyhounds 29-14 in Week 5.
Even in its first two wins this season, Tipton wasn't a fast-starting team. That changed against Concordia when the Cardinals carried a 30-point lead into the locker room at halftime.
Against a Bulldog team that's going to throw everything they have at Tipton, a second consecutive fast start will be crucial.
"Getting momentum early in the game will have a huge snowball effect for us," Braby said. "The team that scores first and then makes the other one go three-and-out will have a big advantage.
" Both teams are playing pretty good ball right now. It's our job not to let them have momentum and we're going to really fight to get that on our side."
While the key for Tipton as a team lies in shoring up an occasionally leaky pass defense, the two biggest individual factors for the Cardinals will be a pair of juniors — Dakota Pace and Matthew Grunder.
Pace has paced Tipton's ground game all season long and will likely see around 25 carries tonight while Grunder is the leading tackler for the Cardinals.
"We're gonna ride Dakota," Braby said. "If he's on his game, I think the offense will follow his lead. Matthew is tackling well and I think we'll follow his example."
Having been bounced in the first round of districts the last couple years, Tipton will have to walk the fine line between approaching tonight as just another game and hyping it up too much.
"All the indications are is that the kids still want to play, so it's pretty easy to keep them motivated," Braby said. "We stress a little bit more to them about what's at stake, but we don't want to put so much pressure on them so they can't perform."
Perhaps the biggest positive in Tipton's favor is health. The Cardinals will run onto the field tonight with everyone in uniform,.
"It's one of the few years I've had where everybody's healthy," Braby said. "I think the biggest injury we've had this season has been a sprained ankle, so we've been very fortunate."