TIPTON — Following the graduation of Dylan Cooper, the Tipton football team had to find a new starting quarterback for this season. They found one that was very new.
Opening the season at quarterback will be junior Braiden Brownfield. He saw playing time on the junior varsity team in 2013, but did not play football last year.
“He has no quarterback experience other than in the PE class that I noticed him throwing the ball,” said Tipton coach Tony Braby. “… Braiden does a real good job, really hard worker, always looking to stick around after weights and throw the ball around to his players.”
Nik Fowler-Hainen was formerly Tipton’s junior varsity quarterback and will back up Brownfield as well as play wide receiver. Braby said Brownfield looked good in 7-on-7 during the summer and Tipton will keep an eye towards spending the next two years developing Brownfield.
Unlike his predecessor Cooper, who could break off a big run when needed, Brownfield will stay in the pocket.
“Not blessed with a lot of speed, but he does have a good, strong arm,” Braby said. “I’m hoping that when teams want to put a lot of people in the box to stop our run, he can throw over top of them and he’s got a strong enough arm to do that.”
Up front, the Cardinals also lost All-State lineman Wyatt Hays to graduation and will return just one starter and one other player who saw playing time on the offensive line. Braby said the offensive line is a work in progress but expects them to gel by the second half of the season.
Among the running backs, Ryan Wood returns for a senior season. Braby is hoping to spread teams out by reaching the edges with the running game.
“There will be times we run it up the middle because they’re worried about us getting to the outside, but if we were tight end to tight end, we wouldn’t be very successful,” he said.
On defense, the Cardinals allowed 67 points in the first two games last season, losses to Class 2 Lexington and North Callaway. Beginning week 3, the Cardinals defense improved as Tipton held Windsor and Harrisburg under 10 points and won three of the next four before running into eventual Kaysinger Conference champion Cole Camp in week 7.
“The defense definitely should be ahead of the offense going into the first game,” Braby said.
Tipton’s numbers are down. Usually the Cardinals will have 40-45 players out for football but this year they are down to 31. Those numbers, and the fact that Tipton has more linemen than skill-position players, means Tipton will likely not field a junior varsity this year.
“Basically we would need about 15 kids to have a junior varsity squad and we’ve just got too many of the kids playing varsity at two-deep,” Braby said. “I don’t want to play a kid on a Friday night and try to get him JV minutes as well. We’re going to be pretty two-deep with all the skill kids, so they’re going to have to do that part of it.”
Though the overall numbers are low, Braby said the players who are out were with the team every step of the way through the offseason in camps, 7-on-7 and in the weight room.
“What we lack in talent, we definitely make up for in our hard-working and enthusiasm,” he said. “I can’t complain about anything because they’ve always done everything we’ve asked. They go 100 miles per hour in all our practice stuff. A hard-working group, we’re just not blessed with a lot of speed.”
Eric Ingles can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @Eric_Ingles