Indians in a unfamiliar position - underdogs
Greenwich comes in at 9-0, while Cambridge is 8-1 — the only loss to the Witches, 43-38, about a month ago.
"We're not preparing any differently then we do every week, honestly," said Cambridge coach Doug Luke. "We've looked ahead for a long time, because immediately after the loss, we were looking at Greenwich. There wasn't a lot of barriers in front of us, we had three weaker teams and then the playoff game. We've looked ahead but the prep didn't start until this week.
Senior running back Jonas Butz said the underdog role is weird with all the success Cambridge has had over the years. In the 25 years of sectional play, Cambridge is looking to win its 16th sectional crown.
"It's definitely a new look for us, we're definitely not used to it but we're still taking the same approach that we always do," Butz said. "We're practicing really hard all week, we have to play a really good defensive game. We're working on schemes, preparing for the dual threat of [Reese] Cristaldi and [Cole] Burgess, they are great players so we have to prepare for that."
Offensively, both teams are extremely strong. Cambridge has outscored teams 489-102 this season and in the four games since the Indians and Witches banged heads, Cambridge is putting up some basketball-type scores, dropping at least 58 in each game, including a 75-30 throttling of Warrensburg in the semifinal last weekend.
"Hopefully we can carry the momentum from last week into [today]," Butz said. "Our line had an excellent game last week, the running lanes were huge for Tommy [English], Gabe [Sgambettera] and I. Zack [Rowland] was throwing the ball well, we were clicking on offense."
Cambridge, as usual, is led by its high-powered rushing attack, which starts with Jonas Butz. Butz is averaging more than 10 yards a carry this year and has 11 touchdowns. If Butz is No. 1, then Tommy English is 1A. English has 65 carries for 514 yards but a team-leading 15 touchdowns — more than 23 percent of English's touches have resulted in scores.
They aren't the only two in the backfield, in fact, seven different running backs have at least 100 yards on the ground this season, including Tyler Linendoll's 287 yards and seven touchdowns and Colton Dean's 151 yards and five touchdowns.
Under center, senior Zack Rowland has been efficient, completing 55-of-80 for 1,219 yards and 10 touchdowns against only three interceptions — two of which came against Greenwich earlier this season.
"The stats will show he's had the same type of year, but he knows what he's doing a lot better this year, he's throwing the ball better and he understands what he has to do," Luke said. "He hasn't had the chance to show how good he is because we're ahead early in games. He's made big strides, but statistically you cant tell."
Defensively, Cambridge will have to attempt to stop — or at least slow — Cristaldi and Burgess.
Burgess was the catalyst behind the win on Sept. 30 with 219 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Also in that game, he threw for 164 yards and another score as the Indians struggled to slow the Witches' senior.
"Any time they needed a big play, Cole made it, time after time after time," Luke said. "We knew what was going to happen, basically, and we couldn't stop it. I don't know if we can stop him, but we'll put in the plan to try."
Nathan Genevick is the leading tackler for the Indians with 69 stops, followed by Brendan Holcomb's 66 and Maxwell Hoffer's 59. Keenan McCauley has 55 tackles as a nose guard and Hunter Day also has 55 stops.
"We've been working on pursuit angles, he's by far the fastest player we've seen all year," Butz said. "We have to have good cornerback play and contain the play, have the linebackers keep him in the middle, if we can do that, I think we'll be good."
For Luke, a sectional title would also be a personal milestone, his 200th career victory.
"It helps to be in some big games the last couple of years, but Greenwich is the same way," Luke said. "They'll be prepared, so there's no advantage either way. Both teams will be confident, both know the other is a pretty good team and it should be a great game."
The game is today at Schuylerville High School, admission is $6. The winner will face Section VII champion Moriah in the regional round.
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