TIPTON, Mo. — Last week, the Tipton Cardinals played their first-ever game against the Knob Noster Panthers and lost 9-8 on a late 42-yard field goal by the Panthers.
This week, Tipton will play the Liberal Bulldogs for the first time in program history. So while the narrative will be the same, the Cardinals are hoping to flip the script when it comes to the outcome at home Saturday afternoon. Kickoff is at 2 p.m.
Like Tipton, the Bulldogs enter Saturday's game at 1-3. Located in the far reaches of Southwest Missouri, Liberal has endured some lean years during the past few seasons. But Tipton coach Tony Braby and his squad are prepared for a battle.
"On film, (Liberal) is very athletic and they really have some good size on the offensive and defensive line," Braby said. "They're not a big threat offensively, but what they do, they do very well."
Though Liberal is coming off a 35-0 loss to Sarcoxie, the thing Tipton will be most focused on Saturday is not leaving points on the field. The Cardinals led Knob Noster in almost every statistical category, but were undone by crucial penalties and miscues offensively.
Having struggled for points in all three of its losses, Tipton will shake things up for Saturday's game. Under center will be senior Braden Brownfield in place of sophomore Dalton Weaver. Brownfield played quarterback last season for the Cardinals and Braby hopes he'll be able to get the offense on track.
Though Tipton's offense is run-based, the added passing threat of Brownfield will not only give the Cardinals options downfield, but it also should get defenses to back off the line of scrimmage a bit.
"It's a little more complicated than a normal offense," Braby said. "The quarterback has to do his reads on three different phases: give it to the fullback, keep it himself or pitch to the halfback."
The Cardinals also struggled against a prevent defense Knob Noster employed in the fourth quarter of last week's game. Through four weeks, most of Tipton's success in the option has come on fullback gives to junior Dakota Pace.
The Cardinals have accounted for just one passing touchdown this season.
Most teams around the state are in the same rhythm every week, but Tipton doesn't have that luxury. Just two weeks ago, the Cardinals played a Thursday night game and now they have a Saturday afternoon clash with Liberal.
For the Tipton coaches, the effort has been made to simulate as normal a week as possible, and that started following last week's game.
"We gave them Monday off," Braby said. "That kind of helped, especially with the way we lost. We started practice on Tuesday and so everything is just pushed back a day. The kids won't be in school before we play Saturday, but other than that, it should be a normal routine."
Though the Cardinals haven't been hit hard by injuries yet this season, the extra day of rest this week has been beneficial, given the relatively small roster size.
"So far, we haven't had anything that's kept anyone out for any amount of time," Braby said. "Whether we had a roster of 50 kids our not, our top 12 or 13 kids would be doing all the playing basically."