KINGDOM CITY — To be more productive on offense, the North Callaway Thunderbirds will need to show some variety.
That was the assessment of North Callaway head coach Don Boulware after the Thunderbirds managed only 149 yards of total offense in a 40-8 loss at Lincoln — ranked No. 1 in Class 1 — in last week's season opener.
North Callaway will seek to increase its offensive value when the Thunderbirds play their home opener tonight against the Tipton Cardinals (1-0). Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
"We probably need to expand our playbook a little, but we also just have to execute better," Boulware said. "We were really, really run-heavy the other night. Not that we have to be balanced, but we need to throw it a little more, and throw it on some non-passing downs so that we're not so predictable."
North Callaway's lone score last week came on a 7-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jadon Henry to senior fullback Mason Wortman on fourth down in the third quarter. Henry was just 3-of-6 passing for only 21 yards and threw two interceptions.
"I hate to throw it when you get to be third-and-really-long, and everybody knows you're going to throw it," Boulware said. "(Defenses) can come with exotic blitzes or pressure, or just drop everybody back into coverage.
"We're the type of offense that we need to not put ourselves in a hole with penalties and with mistakes where you end up with a big negative-yardage play. As long as we're in third-and-less than five (yards), I always feel like we have a chance."
Tipton launched its season last week with a 41-12 victory at St. Paul Lutheran: Concordia. The Cardinals received one vote in Class 1 in this week's Missouri Media Rankings.
South Callaway prepares to clash with HermannRead more
Boulware and Tony Braby — entering his 22nd season as Tipton head coach — squared off once early in their respective careers. Braby's Sweet Springs squad outlasted Boulware and his Santa Fe team in a 48-46 shootout in triple-overtime in 1981.
"It was an offensive explosion," Boulware said. "Those kinds of scores aren't that unusual nowadays, but back then you didn't see scores like that."
The Cardinals' spread offense this season is directed by quarterback Blake Fischer, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound junior. Fischer passed for 1,934 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2018.
"He throws well in the pocket and maybe even throws better when he's moving outside the pocket," Boulware said. "He shows pretty good accuracy and seems to see the field really well, which is a big part of it."
Boulware put a priority on the Thunderbirds' defensive unit being able to disrupt Fischer's timing tonight. That didn't happen last week when Lincoln senior quarterback Jackson Beaman threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns, while also running for three scores.
"Some of it (pressuring QB) is technique, some of it's effort, some of it's personnel," Boulware said. "We might have to sacrifice some size up front to get a little more speed on the defensive line, keep some guys fresh up there.
"When you give the quarterback six, seven, eight seconds to throw, that's a recipe for disaster. That happened too many times last Friday."
The Cardinals' main threat out of the backfield is senior slotback Austin Pace (5-9, 145) and he will be joined by fellow senior slotback Francisco Xiao (5-7, 170). Fischer's main target will be senior wide receiver Cooper Allee (5-10, 160).
"They've got some real good speed at slotback, both as receivers and on jet sweeps, and the running game," Boulware said. "They're just an athletic group with pretty good overall team speed."
On the defensive side, Boulware said Tipton will shift between odd and even fronts.
"We're going to have to be smart up front and get our calls in, and recognize the (defensive) front," Boulware said. "We have to be able to block an odd and an even and pick up stunts."
Boulware stressed the North Callaway offense also has to improve in prolonging possessions. The Thunderbirds had five series end in punts in the loss to Lincoln and committed six penalties for 55 yards on offense.
"We can't have so many three-and-outs, we're going to have to sustain drives," Boulware said. "We can't stop ourselves — we need to get our playmakers in open space a little bit better.
"We need to get yards on first down so that we're in second-and-manageable, third-and-manageable situations. When we get 15, 20 yards to go because of a loss of yardage on a play or a penalty, we're not so good."