TIPTON, Mo. — With a small roster, longtime head coach Tony Braby will keep it simple for Tipton in 2016.
With a core group of six or seven players that will be seeing the field at the key positions on both sides of the ball, the Cardinals are focused on playing hard and fast, and taking the overthinking aspect out of the game.
The plan to play hard and fast falls right in line with Braby's philosophy — attack. On offense, that may translate into throwing the ball more and simply taking what the defense gives.
Senior offensive linemen Tate Combs, Ricky Capestro and Drew Williams return to pave the way for a backfield that be led by halfback Seth Gibson and fullbacks Dylan Becker and Dakota Pace. Senior wideouts Braiden Brownfield and Tyler Pierson will also be back in the fold for this season.
There are a couple question marks offensively for the Cardinals. One is at quarterback, where sophomore Dalton Weaver will be under center. The other is the offensive line.
With two first-year starters in the mix, Braby things it may take a few games before things fully come together up front.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cardinals bring back six starters from a season ago. Combs, Capestro and Pierson will hold down the line, and while Tipton may be lacking in the secondary, that shouldn't be much of an issue given the run-heavy style of Class 1.
"We'll be way ahead defensively of where we are offensively at the beginning of the season," Braby said.
Ryan Wood will be the most noticeable absence from Tipton this season after graduating this past spring. Wood, a four-year varsity player, was a do-it-all running back and linebacker, as well as a leader in the locker room.
While Braby admits a roster of just 25 players will create challenges when it comes to depth, one thing he's preached from the first practice on has been to get used to playing all 48 minutes. It makes conditioning of added importance as the Cardinals prep for their Week 1 tilt against St. Paul Lutheran.
"We have to play what we call 'iron man football,'" Braby said. "That means, once you step on the field, you're not going to get a break until halftime. They have to know that not only will they be playing on offense and defense, they'll be doing special teams as well."
After Tipton bowed out to Osceola in districts to end a 3-7 season, the Cardinals will catch a reprieve on the schedule for 2016.
They won't have to deal with the likes of Lexington, Skyline and Father Tolton this season — all teams that made deep playoff runs a year ago.
But of course, Tipton's biggest games will be against Kaysinger Conference opponents Lincoln, Cole Camp and Windsor. After earning its only conference win last year against Windsor, the Kaysinger matchups will prove critical if the Cardinals are to reach their goal of five or six wins.
"Last season was a rough season with a very young team a tough schedule, lots of mistakes and turnovers and not much depth," Braby said. "We're kind of on the upswing and we're just hoping to improve on what we did last year"