Instant Classic: Cambridge goes for two and wins first state crown since 1999
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Cambridge senior Maurice Seymore had just scored in the second overtime of the Class D state championship game to pull the Indians within a point of Section VI opponent Maple Grove.
At that point, Cambridge coach Doug Luke had a decision to make, either send his kicker in to tie the game or go for the two-point conversion and the win.
He consulted some of his players and then went with his instinct - let's go for the win.
"Nobody that would disagree at that point, I wanted to get it over with one way or the other," Luke said. "I love [kicker] Helen [Mooney], but she wasn't ready to kick, so that made the situation a little easier. I didn't want to put her in a situation like that. You work the whole year and it comes down to one play."
So after a timeout to talk things over, the Indians lined up with a state championship in the balance.
"Coach Luke had full confidence in us, we knew once we scoredthat we were going to go for two," said quarterback Zackary Rowland.
Rowland took the snap and rolled left. The Maple Grove defender bit and Shawn Lemieux popped into the open in the end zone. Rowland floated the ball up to give the 6-foot-2 senior a chance to make history.
"I wasn't watching Zack, I was watching Shawn the whole way," Luke said. "I was hoping they'd suck down and they did and I was like, alright it's there."
Lemieux jumped up and made the grab, setting off a celebration after Cambridge's 22-21 win, its first state football title since 1999.
"Just watching the ball come out of my hands, it felt like forever, but when it dropped into Shawn's hands, I was like whoa," Rowland said.
"I was waiting for the ball to get there, it seemed to take a little while," Luke said.
Cambridge nearly didn't have a chance at the game-winning play. The Indians faced a fourth-and-10 from the 20 and Luke went with a play they've only had in the playbook for a couple of weeks, a pass to Brendan Holcomb.
"I couldn't think of anything else to do," said Luke, laughing. "We needed 10 yards. It's smart when it works and it worked today."
The play called for Jonas Butz to clear his defender and give Holcomb an open lane for Rowland to find him.
"We've had that play since the [Ticonderoga] game and we didn't use it. I popped open and I knew I had to go up and make the catch to see if we could extend the game," Holcomb said.
Holcomb, the leading wide receiver all season for the Indians, made only the one catch in the championship, but it was important.
"I just remember thinking that everything is riding on this play for us as a team," said senior running back Ryan McLenithan. "We worked so hard all year and Brendan made a great catch."
The 12-yard catch gave Cambridge a first-and-goal at the 8-yard-line and on the next play, they gave the ball to senior Maurice Seymore. On the stretch play, he was hit after a short gain but kept the legs churning and got into the end zone to make it 21-20.
"I saw Maurice fighting and I thought the first guy got him and I was like OK, but he kept pumping those legs and it was amazing to watch, he's a workhorse," Rowland said.
That set up the decision that will be remembered in Cambridge for decades to come.
"When Coach Luke said we were going for two, I realized it was now or never, this is the game, if we miss it we lose, if we make it, we win," Butz said. "It didn't set in at first, but once we got it, I was in shock and disbelief. My eyes got as wide as saucesr, praying that [Lemieux] would catch it and he came down with it and I was so happy that he did."
Cambridge got on the board first on its second possession, with McLenithan scored on a 1-yard run to cap off a 10-play drive. The PAT was no good, giving Cambridge a 6-0 lead. After the teams traded punts, Maple Grove took the lead on a long drive of its own.
Quarterback Dalton Dubois completed a 30-yard pass to Michel Padilla and three plays later, Nick Fabrizio scored on a 9-yard run to give the Red Dragons a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter.
Fabrizio led the Maple Grove attack, carrying the ball 15 times for 88 yards and all three of the Red Dragons' scores.
Cambridge answered on the next drive, with Rowland finding Butz for a 60-yard catch and run touchdown to make it 14-7 after the 2-point conversion.
Butz led the Cambridge offense with 65 yards on eight carries, he also caught two passes for 80 yards, including the long score.
On Cambridge's next drive, Rowland made a rare mistake, throwing an interception to Nash Nelson to put Maple Grove in business on the Cambridge side of the field. Six runs later, Fabrizio found the end zone again, this time from 2 yards out to make it 14-14, which was the score into halftime.
In the second half, Maple Grove had two chances to re-take the lead, but the Indians' defense held. On the first, Dubois was intercepted in the end zone by Lemieux to cut off a drive. After a Cambridge punt, Maple Grove's next drive lasted nearly eight minutes, but on 4th-and-8 from the 15, Maple Grove's kicker, Padilla, was short on a 32-yard try, keeping the game tied.
As time wound down in the fourth, Tommy English fumbled to give the Red Dragons a shot at a game-winning drive, then atoned for his error with an interception on Dubois in the final 30 seconds.
In overtime, Cambridge took the ball first, but Colton Dean fumbled on third down, turning it over. But on the second play for Maple Grove, Brad Benson (the leading rusher with 23 carries for 130 yards) fumbled, recovered by Seymore.
In the second overtime, Fabrizio scored from two yards out, setting up the dramatics.
"I haven't been that excited in a long time, the way it happened," Luke said.
"Oh my gosh, it means so much for our town, they support us through thick and thin," Butz said. "Cambridge football has such an amazing tradition, so it's great to get the win for them finally."
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