Cambridge looks to repeat in Class D
And after winning the Class D state championship and going undefeated in 2016, where else could the Indians go? But despite some realignment and a tougher Section II, Class D, Cambridge is automatically one of the favorites again.
"We looked good and bad in the scrimmage last week, but we're ready. We know what's going on here," said coach Doug Luke, who won his second state championship in November. "We've had a good three weeks of practice, we're way ahead of where we were in the past."
The team is led by second-year quarterback Zack Rowland, who threw for 1,321 yards and 20 touchdowns against three interceptions.
"His attitude is much better than last year," Luke said. "He came in confident, knew he was the quarterback from [Day 1]. "He's not afraid to speak up, he's stepped up a lot. He's dealing with a little injury, but he's going well. He's been much better to work with this year."
Jonas Butz and Thomas English are the top two running backs as leading rushers Ryan McLenithan and Maurice Seymore graduated.
"They are established in the backfield. Jonas has been our wingback for two years, he's worked for it to be the main runner," Luke said. "He's more experienced, stronger and he'll do fine, I think he'll have a lot of yards."
Rowland will have some big targets, including Colton Dean and Brendan Holcomb, who led the team in receiving yards with 477.
"Colton is starting at end, but he might go to the line," Luke said. "It's a perfect example of moving guys around to find the right spot for them."
The offensive and defensive lines are strong with Max Hoffer, LJ Johnson, Nathan Genevick and Carter Benson, but others have also got time in the rotation, including Ethan Jeskie and Jordan Dean.
"I think the line is the most important part," Luke said. "Carter's taken over at one of the guard spots and then we have the other guys in the mix. It's about finding the right combination and it's hard to get those combos right until you get into a game."
Defensively, Keenan McCauley is at the nose guard, and at 345 pounds, proves a tough matchup for any lineman.
"His quickness has also improved. With him, Genevick and Dean up front, our line has more depth than anything.
On special teams, the Indians have a couple of weapons that many in Section II don't. Coming into her second year is senior Helen Mooney, who broke the record last season of scoring by a female player.
"It's her second year, so there's no surprises," Luke said. "She knows what she's getting into. Last year, she was constantly nervous and this year, she's a lot more confident and comfortable. She's been kicking well in practice."
Daniel Medina comes in as a kickoff specialist, something that could make the difference in a close game.
"He kicks it consistently to the five-yard line and our coverage team is doing well, so we try to make the stop inside the 20," Luke said. "It's a lot harder to drive the ball 80 yards [for a touchdown] then 60 yards."
Cambridge starts the year with four straight road games, including tonight's matchup with Rensselaer. On Sept. 9, Cambridge will meet Section I's Albertus Magnus at Dietz Stadium before traveling to Hoosic Valley and Whitehall.
The Indians come home for the first time on Sept. 30 against Greenwich and face Cohoes and Helderberg Valley at home before finishing the regular season at Granville.
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