Orange and black: The colors of a dynasty
For most, they are just a pair of mundane colors with little significance, but for the people of Cambridge, they mean a whole lot more.
These people bleed those colors.
The Cambridge football team epitomizes this ideal and with its constant success, they represent those colors at the highest level.
To categorize the Indians as just a great team is an understatement. They have built a legacy that few in the state of New York, regardless of division, can match. A legacy of success. A legacy of hard work. A legacy of pride in their colors.
The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) state championship, in its current incarnation, has been around for 25 seasons. In only 10 of those seasons, Cambridge failed to make the state tournament. In that time span, they have racked up 20 wins in the tournament. The next best mark in Section II is Amsterdam, who has 11. They trail only Section IV's Chenango Forks (30) and Rochester's Aquinas (23) for the most wins in tournament history.
On top of all of this, the Indians have brought home two state championships over that span, with the last one being last season.
The current crop of Cambridge players are aware of this history. They know what's come before them and they use it as motivation to match their predecessors, and in many ways top them.
"It means a lot to me," junior running back Tommy English said. "Everybody knows everybody and you know who you're playing for and for the guys who wore the jersey before you. We want to make them proud and make our whole community proud."
Football is a brotherhood. It's built upon a bond you create with the players you go to war with every day and the coaches who have given their time to make you the best you can be, both on and off the playing field.
"When I come to school, I just think about getting out on the football field with my friends," senior quarterback Zack Rowland said. "They're like brothers to me. I love going out there with them. Football for all of us just means everything right now."
One common bond for every player that has put on the pads for the Indians over the past two decades is the man leading them into battle: Doug Luke.
Luke has been coaching Cambridge since before every player on his squad was even born, taking over the head coaching position in 1998. Following the legendary head coaching career of Ken Baker and a stint by Al Rapp, Luke has made a name for himself as one of the most successful to ever roam the sidelines in New York. The Cambridge Central School graduate has amassed 202 wins over his storied coaching career.
Luke's players know just how lucky they are to learn from and play under such a well-respected coach.
"It really makes us know we can trust Coach Luke. If he makes a decision, we can rely on him and he can rely on us," Rowland said. "With his experience and our training, all of us have gotten really close with him. A couple of us love to talk to him about stuff we can do to get better and ways he can come up with new ideas for us making bigger plays."
With all of this history in mind, the current crop of Indians has a chance to make some history of their own Friday afternoon. Cambridge will look to become the first team in Section II history to win back-to-back state championships when they take on Maple Grove in a rematch of last season's 22-21 double-overtime state title game thriller.
The defending state champions were tucked away in a small room watching film of the Red Dragons Monday afternoon and once they finished up each coach had a piece about the importance of Friday's game.
When it was assistant coach Chad Burr's turn to speak, he had a message to the team, and the seniors in particular, that seemed to strike a chord with the room.
Looking each and every one of them in the eye, he told them that this group has the opportunity to make their mark as the most successful group to ever come though the Cambridge football program. With history on their doorstep, it's hard to say that Burr is wrong.
For every player sitting in that room Monday afternoon, Friday cannot come fast enough
"It's really exciting to be playing in a state championship game," English said. "We've prepared for it since we were kids and it's just a dream."
Friday's contest with be in the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University. Kickoff is set for noon.
Adam Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com and at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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