Cambridge prepares for state semifinal against Millbrook
The Cambridge football team can almost taste a return trip to the Carrier Dome to defend its Class D state championship, but in front of them is one last test to make it a reality.
If the Indians want to make it back to Syracuse, they'll have to go through Millbrook first, tonight at Middletown High School.
The fact that Cambridge was able to get back to this point in the playoffs has the team excited for the prospects for what's ahead. For many, its tough for the players to focus on things outside of football with such a big game on the horizon.
"It's very exciting because we were here last year," senior Brendan Holcomb said. "You know you get there and you kinda just watch the clock tick by in school, hoping it will go a little bit faster and hoping you get to Friday to get down there and play."
The Blazers will pose a tough challenge for the Indians come Friday. They come in with a 6-5 record, but don't let that average-looking record fool you as they figure to give Cambridge a tough game.
The Section IX Blazers topped No. 1 seed Tuckahoe last Friday 42-20 to make it into the semifinal. Coming into the contest, the Tigers had won their three previous games and scored 30 points or more in all of those contests, so the Blazers holding them to a season-low 20 points was a major feat.
The Indians have been high-powered offensively, but they'll have to figure out a way to deal with a pretty strong defense on the opposing end. Millbrook has six different players with 30 or more tackles. Erik Manfredi leads the squad with 45 tackles, followed by Michael Triglia, who has 44. The defense has also forced nine interceptions on the season.
Cambridge has scored more than 40 points in all but two games this season, so it will interesting to see how the Blazers try to slow them down.
Offensively, Millbrook is almost completely predicated on the running game. The Blazers run a Double Wing offense, which isn't run quite as often nowadays with more and more teams electing to open up the passing game.
The Indians defense will have to be prepared for this approach coming into today's contest.
"It's hard to see a team that's running a double wing. You have to be really patient," said Cambridge coach Doug Luke. "You can't be too aggressive because that aggressiveness opens up holes. Not so much (on the outside), but in between. That's what we've concentrated on a lot this week, not over-penetrating and being disciplined."
"They like to scoot out the backside and keep you honest," added Holcomb, a linebacker, who is second on the team in tackles with 86. "We have to stay home and do our own job and not try to be a hero."
The two main threats out of the backfield for the Blazers have been Manfredi and senior Drew Jackson. Manfredi leads the team with 942 yards, while Jackson has rushed for 875. The two have combined for 27 of the team's 33 rushing touchdowns. As a team, Millbrook has attempted just 25 passes on the season.
The Indians have been much more balanced between rushing and passing, but much like many offenses in the area, they also find themselves predicated in the running game. Jonas Butz and Tommy English continue to lead them in that regard, with both rushing for over 800 yards in 2017.
With the state championship game floating in the distance, it would be easy for Cambridge to look past a Blazers team that they are expected to beat, but much like the approach they have taken all season, it's just another game and the next step to reach the ultimate goal.
"We know if we don't focus this week, there will be no next week," Holcomb said. "We have to take one step at a time and try to get out of there with a win."
Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. at Middletown High School in Middletown, N.Y., and can be streamed online through Spectrum Sports.
Adam Aucoin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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