Chiefs have regional rematch at No. 4 Tipton
ALMA -- Despite losing eight seniors from last year, including all-state quarterback Ross Tieman, the Santa Fe football team makes its return to the MSHSAA Class 1 playoffs today.
"Our kids did a good job of stepping up," remarked head coach Andy Frerking. "I'm proud of the way our kids came together and handled those new roles effectively."
As was the case a year ago, the Chiefs' regional clash will be at Tipton. The Cardinals won that contest easily, 45-6, before being eliminated by top-ranked Concordia in the next round.
"It was a big learning experience for these guys," noted Frerking, whose program had been absent from the post-season for five seasons. "They had a chance to see a playoff experience and the level of what it's like."
Tipton head coach Tony Braby -- whose fourth-ranked club is making its ninth playoff appearance in the last 10 years, with a 14-9 record and five semifinal losses -- expects the Chiefs (7-3) to be much tougher the second time around.
"I think they're going to be a lot more playoff experienced," he noted. "They're going to go in there with nothing to fear.
That Santa Fe has already faced the two highest-ranked teams in the state in I-70 Conference foes Wellington-Napoleon and Concordia may also be a factor.
"They're battle-tested," Braby said. "That makes them dangerous and more hungry."
The Cardinals (10-0) are that and more, having won 59 straight regular season games. Frerking considers them a fast and physical group which runs an offense -- a variation of the run-and-shoot Missouri Valley College deployed during the final years of Dan Stanley's tenure -- which is hard for a scout team to replicate in practice.
"It's hard to simulate because of the speed it's run," Frerking said. "By this time of the year, you've played a lot of football and can relate it to something you've seen."
Frerking doesn't expect to see the same things from Tipton's defense that were presented during their last meeting, but Braby said that familiarity can inform one's preparation.
"It's no big secret what we're going to do," Braby said. "It comes down to execution."
Besides what they know from past match-ups and what they learn from watching video, one of the keys in the playoffs is making and dealing with adjustments.
"He's got three or four different plans," Braby said about his counterpart. "If something's not working for him, he has no problem switching up."
The biggest challenge for the Chiefs, though, may be matching the focus that's typical of Braby's program.
"You can tell they are taught to play to the whistle," Frerking said. "They play mistake-free football, so you're going to have to match their effort and match their execution."
Santa Fe hasn't won a playoff game since 2004, the last season of 10 straight runs to the quarterfinals, so enters as a decided underdog.
"To get through and win is another milestone," Frerking admitted. "It would be a monumental upset."