TIPTON, Mo. — Every coach looks at the schedule before the year and can point to that crucial, make-or-break stretch of the season. Tipton head coach Tony Braby is no different.
For Braby and the Cardinals, that stretch is not only here, but they're in the middle of it following a 58-18 loss to Kaysinger Conference foe Lincoln.
Tipton will once again be on the road against a Kaysinger rival tonight with a game at Cole Camp (5-1). Though the Cardinals fell by 40 against fourth-ranked Lincoln, there were enough good things, particularly in the first half, to where Tipton feels it has some momentum going into its game against the Blue Birds.
"If we have some adversity, we can look back and say, 'Hey we played Lincoln tough, we can do it against Cole Camp,'" Braby said. "Mentally the last game gave us some positive things."
In the end, Tipton met the same fate as all other Lincoln opponents so far — a running clock loss. However, the game was tied at 12 well into the second quarter, and Tipton scored 18 points — just one less point than Lincoln had allowed in its first five games combined.
Junior standout Dakota Pace accounted for every Tipton touchdown against Lincoln. Pace twice scampered for long rushing scores before taking a kick return to the house later in the game.
"(Dakota) just had a tremendous night," Braby said. "He was definitely the player of the game offensively and he's still doing a great job week-to-week.
"We didn't come out of the Lincoln game crushed and demoralized. We came away with a pretty good feeling. I think we'll be able to look back at that game as the turning point of our season."
For the second week in a row, Tipton will have to slow down a high-octane offense. Led by quarterback Holt Wroten, Cole Camp has put up at least 34 points in all five of its wins.
However, the Blue Birds were shut out in their only loss, a 6-0 defeat to Carrollton. Unlike the other three Kaysinger teams, Cole Camp is in Class 2 for football, so Tipton will have a chance to earn more of those all-important district points with a win.
"Cole Camp has always been a big, physical type of team," Braby said. "They hit hard and they block extremely well. They're not really fancy, but they try to get you outmanned at the point of attack.
" We've played them when we've been undefeated and they still have given us tough games. For some reason they always come at us and attack us. We know we'll have our hands full with them."
Once the stalwart program of the Kaysinger Conference, Tipton hasn't won the league since 2012 and likely won't be champions this year. However, the chance to hand the Blue Birds their first conference loss of the season is something that the Cardinals definitely view as an opportunity.
"Every year to start the season, we set goals to win our conference and have a strong district tournament and hopefully move on to the state playoffs," Braby said. "It's important to us to be the conference champions, we just won't get it done this year."
Though Tipton may be in the underdog role tonight in Cole Camp, the overall competitiveness of the rivalry could breed a closer game than expected. The Cardinals are looking for their first win against the Blue Birds since 2012.
"If we do what we're practicing to do this week, and the boys execute their assignments, hopefully we can slow them down enough for us to stay in the game," Braby said.
Updates on Twitter: @colecamphoops