TIPP CITY — Tippecanoe football coach Matt Burgbacher knows everybody likes to talk about the Miami County rivalry games in the MVL for the Red Devils with Piqua and Troy.
But, with a team with a lot of talent and not a lot of Friday night experience, Burgbacher and his team are more focused on what they can control.
“We aren’t really looking at any of those games,” Burgbacher said about his squad that is coming off a 10-3 season in which Tipp went 8-1 in the MVL. “Of course, we will be ready when those games roll around. And there may have been a little Bellbrook (the season opener) thrown in at times.
“But, we are more concerned about oursevles and what we can do. We are focused on the things we can control.”
And with just three starters returning on each side of the ball, getting game experience will be a big part of that.
But, Burgbacher feels like he has an ace in the hole on each side of the ball when it comes to that in senior quarterback Liam Poronsky and senior linebacker Josh Dietz.
Poronsky returns to run the Tippecanoe offense.
A year ago, Poronksy completed 130 of 219 passes for 1,444 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions.
He also rushed 463 yards and eight touchdowns on 84 carries.
“You always hear people talk about a student of the game,” Burgbacher said. “Well to me, when you talk about student of the game, that is Liam Poronsky. He always working. Always asking questions and wanting to get better. When you have three starters back, having him back there is like having five starters by himself.”
Burgbacher knows he will make the transition smoother as the Red Devils gain that game experience.
“If we were in a situation where an assistant coach couldn’t be at the game, I would have complete confidence in letting Liam (Pronsky) call the offense,” Burgbacher said. “That is how well he understands the game.”
Another familiar face in the backfield is junior Xavier Jones.
In limited time last year, Jones had 288 yards on 38 carries, including two touchdowns. In a D-III playoff win over Mount Healthy he rushed for 109 yards on just nine carries.
“Xavier (Jones) got a lot of great experience last year,” Burgbacher said.
Also in the backfield will be junior running back Cael Liette and junior H-back Jeremy Walland.
The receivers will include seniors Stanley Clyne and Lukas Walker and juniors Evan Liette, Lucas Merry, Andrew Oen and Maddox Sivon.
“The receivers are the only place where we don’t have a lot of experience,” Burgbacher said. “But, the competition in practice pushes them and makes them better.”
Returning on the offensive line is senior Luke Catrone.
Also on the line will be seniors Trevor Silcox, Eli Moore, Gordon Haas and Brenden Blacketer and junior Jackson Smith.
“Luke Catone was a starter last year and Eli Moore got a lot of playing time,” Burgbacher said.
Dietz will be the leader for the defense which will play its traditions 3-4 set.
“The first three weeks we will see three different offenses,” Burgbacher said. “We will see a different offense each week, so it is just about what we do.”
Dietz had 95 tackles a year ago, with two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and an interception.
“He is kind of like Liam Pronsky on offense,” Burgbacher said. “He moves everybody around and gets them in the right position.”
Joining him at the linebacker spots will be Cael Liette and senior Levi Carmack.
At defense ends will be seniors Blake Thompson, Dominic Munroe and DJ Martin and junior Trace Trent.
Seeing action inside will be seniors Garrett Smith, Silcox and Moore and juniors Jackson Smith and Jake Vore.
In the secondary will be seniors Peyton Bey, Carson Robbins and juniors Braden Burgbacher, Cale Heeley, Merry, Oen and Sivon.
The final starter is a big one for the Red Devils in senior kicker/punter Jackson Kleather.
He was 49-or-49 on PATs a year ago and 4-for-7 on field goal attempts and averaged 35.7 yards per punt.
“He is one of the hardest working kids you will ever see,” Burgbacher said. “He is a kid that is getting D-I looks. Anytime we get inside the 40, we feel like we can get three points. And then with his kickoffs into the end zone and he has come so far on his punting. He can flip the field.”
Tipp opens the season with Bellbrook.
“One of the things is I didn’t want to have an easy win in week one,” Burgbacher said. “I wanted to play a really good team with playoff tradition and Bellbrook is.”
And Burgbacher sees the MVL as even stronger this year.
“The one advice (Piqua football coach) Bill Nees gave me is pack your lunch every day,” Burgbacher said. “Of course, when you are the defending champion (Piqua), that is the team you look at. But, I think the gap between all the teams in the MVL is narrowing. We know if we get ourselves in position to be in the playoffs, we will be ready.”
And Burgbacher looks forward to seeing a team that is young in game experience grow to be in that position again this season.
You can reach Sports Editor Rob Kiser at [email protected]