Going to the 'ship: Cambridge punches Dome ticket

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MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. — The Cambridge Indians football team marked all the checks right away in the Class D state semifinal matchup against Section IX's Millbrook on Friday.

Cambridge wanted the ball first, they got it. They wanted to score fast, they did — taking the first drive 58 yards for a Colton Dean touchdown.

That was a refrain for the first 24 minutes as the Indians scored eight touchdowns on 10 first-half drives to roll 56-8, punching their ticket to a second straight championship appearance.

"That's what we've been doing the whole season," said Doug Luke, who will coach in his sixth title game. "We've jumped on teams real quick and that's something we expect to do at this point. You prepare, work hard, and you hope that good things happen, tonight, exactly what we planned is what happened."

On the other side of the ball, their goal was to hold the Blazers to negative-yardage plays and they did that more often than not — the double-wing offense for Millbrook was held in check, rushing 36 times for only 53 yards and no touchdowns. Nine of those carries were for negative yardage.

The Blazers were led by Drew Jackson, who carried 17 times for 43 yards.

"I didn't think we'd dominate like that," said Brendan Holcomb. "We practiced hard and listened to our keys. It helped to play the double wing twice [this season]."

On the opening kickoff, Jonas Butz had a nice run to put Cambridge into Blazer territory.

After an incomplete pass to start, Cambridge had five straight runs, capped off by Colton Dean's 12th rushing touchdown, a four-yard bolt for a 7-0 lead after Helen Mooney's point after.

On Millbrook's opening drive, Jackson and Eric Manfredi, the top two runners for the Blazers, each had negative runs to set them behind the sticks. Forced to throw, quarterback Gavin Burns dropped back and the ball was tipped to Holcomb, who ran it back 15 yards to set up Cambridge with a short field.

It only took four plays to double the lead, with Dean scoring his 13th touchdown on a 15-yard run.

"That was the best way we could've started, it opened up at the beginning and we scored, and then we were hoping to get a quick stop on their first drive," Holcomb said. "It worked out great. I saw the ball get tipped up and I went to get it and saw open space."

Already behind schedule, Millbrook was stopped for no gain on both third and fourth down on the next drive, giving Cambridge the ball back in plus territory.

This time, it was three plays to find paydirt, a 16-yard touchdown up the middle for Tommy English for a 21-0 lead. English, the offensive MVP for Cambridge, led 10 different Indians running backs with 73 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns. Dean added two scores and 50 yards.

"They didn't do anything surprising, we knew they were running the double wing, we knew they had the two really good backs, so we just had to stop them early," Luke said. "If we could stop them [in] three plays,we could get the ball back on offense again. Everything you plan and plan and plan, we've been doing it all season."

On Millbrook's next possession, a Manfredi run back on the kick was called back by penalty, but the ensuing drive moved a little bit. But the Cambridge defense was up to the task. On fourth-and-4 from the 45, Burns fumbled, which was recovered by Holcomb, the defensive MVP for the Indians.

On the next play, Cambridge quarterback Zack Rowland (3-of-6 for 74 yards, a TD and interception) took advantage of a defensive breakdown from Millbrook, finding Jacob Peters for a 45-yard touchdown catch and a 28-0 lead.

Soon after, Burns was injured on a sack by Tyler Linendoll, recovered by Max Hoffer to give Cambridge the ball back. The Indians forced five turnovers on the night.

At that point, the rout was on — Jonas Butz scored from 3 yards out for a 35-0 lead and Linendoll punched it in from 6 yards out for a 42-0 lead.

Manfredi put Millbrook on the board with a 82-yard kickoff return, but the Indians were unfazed, English scoring on a 29-yard jaunt for a 49-8 lead.

With backups in, Calvin Schneider scored the final touchdown with a 1-yard sneak with about five minutes remaining in the half.

"It's an awesome feeling, to [get to the Carrier Dome] once is good," Butz said. "My teammates [and I] have worked so hard for this moment. It's great to get back to the dome two years in a row.

Cambridge will face Maple Grove in a rematch of last year's Class D classic championship game, a 22-21 double overtime win for the Indians to secure the first title since 1999. The game will be at noon on Friday at the Carrier Dome.

"We've been motivated the whole year to get back to the Dome, we've worked for it all year," Butz said. "It means so much to our program and our town. We have so much support from our community."


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