As hard as it is to win a high school state championship it’s nearly impossible to claim back to back state crowns, something heading into championship weekend that had never been done by any Section II school. Until now.
The Cambridge Indians made just enough big plays on both sides of the ball to post a 26-14 victory over Maple Grove and claim their second straight Class D state football championship on Black Friday.
With a high noon kickoff at the Dome in Syracuse, Cambridge wasted little time in taking the lead when Zack Rowland, on the second play of the game, found Brenden Holcomb wide open in the left flat and Holcomb did the rest running it in for a 65-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Indian advantage.
Maple Grove answered on their first possession finishing an extended drive with the equalizer when Easton Tanner found Zach Fischer on a middle screen from the Cambridge five-yard line to tie it at 7-7 with 4:57 remaining in the quarter.
Early in the second, Cambridge put together a 10 play drive using a big pass play to Jacob Peters and quality runs from Tommy English, Jonas Butz and Colton Dean, with Dean capping the series on a 1-yard touchdown run for a 13-7 lead.
Later in the period it looked like the Indians would add to their spread driving inside the Maple Grove 5-yard line. But the Red Dragons defense held on a fourth down play keeping Cambridge off the board.
After a three and out and a Maple Grove punt, Cambridge wasted little time in taking a two score cushion.
Starting in Maple Grove territory Jonas Butz ripped off a 30-yard run to the Red Dragon 10-yard line and two plays later Tyler Linendoll scored on a 6-yard TD run and after a failed two-point attempt the Indians held a 19-7 advantage heading to the break.
Maple Grove took the second half kickoff and behind the power running of Nick Fabrizio and a key conversion on a 3rd and eight pass play from Tanner to Fischer, were quickly poised for points deep in Cambridge territory.
But on a 4th and five from the Cambridge 11-yard line Max Hoffer sacked Red Dragon quarterback Tanner stopping the drive and giving the football back to the Indians.
Defense continued as the theme through the remainder of the third period with neither offensive squad able to produce points.
Points would come early in the final stanza and those points belonged to the Red Dragons.
After the Indians, on a drive that started on their own 25, had moved the ball into Maple Grove territory, Cambridge QB Rowland was picked off by Tanner who brought it all the way back for a 55-yard score and with the point after the Cambridge lead was cut to 19-14 with 10:13 remaining.
On the ensuing series the Indians leaned on their dominant ground game mixing carries from English, Dean and Linendoll to move the ball and eat clock. After a pair of fourth down conversions to keep the drive alive, Dean scored his second of the afternoon finishing an 8-yard run by leaping into the end zone and with the Helen Mooney point after the Indians extended their lead to 26-17 with 4:50 left to play.
With 2:43 remaining English picked off a Tanner pass and two minutes later Cambridge closed out the historic win in the very familiar victory formation.
Congratulations to Coach Luke, his staff, and most importantly the Cambridge players for yet another very special fall football campaign.