Pressure on Indians as defending champions
It took more than 60 minutes and a gutsy two-point conversion call in overtime for the Indians to end its 17-year drought with a 22-21 win.
Fast forward just about a year and the Indians and Red Dragons come together again. But this time, Cambridge has the big bulls-eye on its back as the defending champs.
"It's definitely a lot harder this year as the defending champs," said senior Jonas Butz. "There wasn't a lot of pressure on us [last year], we kind of came up out of nowhere. Now we have the pressure to repeat and be the first Section II team to [win back-to-back championships.]
Both teams boast high-powered rushing attacks. Cambridge is led by Tommy English, who has 879 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground. But there's much more — Butz has 834 yards and 12 touchdowns mostly from his wingback spot. Two other Indians, Colton Dean and Tyler Linendoll, have more than 400 yards each and a combined 22 scores.
The Red Dragons are led by senior back Nick Fabrizio, who has 1,288 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground and Nash Nelson with 715 yards and seven scores. Fabrizio ran for 89 yards in last year's title game.
"We're going in with the idea this year that we can compete," said coach Doug Luke. "We had our doubts if we could play with them last year. The western part of the state has [had more success] than the eastern side. We're in a much better space right now, we know what we're getting into. We know what they like to do on offense and defense, this time there's not a lot of surprises."
At the quarterback position, Cambridge's Zack Rowland has had a solid season with 1,399 yards and 16 touchdowns through the air. At the end of many of those touchdown passes is senior Brendan Holcomb who has 596 receiving yards and eight scores. Rowland started the title game a season ago, completing six passes for 140 yards.
On the Red Dragons' side is junior Easton Tanner — more of a dual threat, with 729 yards on the ground and nine touchdowns and 680 passing yards and 12 more scores. Eight of the 12 scores through the air have been hauled in by Zach Fischer
Defensively, Cambridge's front seven have been a key for the Indians, with the front four racking up more than 300 tackles and an experienced linebacking corps that includes Max Hoffer, Holcomb and Hunter Day and Linendoll.
Maple Grove's leading tackler is senior linebacker Zack Trim, who has 157 stops, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
"They know us better than last year and we know them," Butz said. "They'll want revenge, they have a chip on their shoulder."
Both teams have coaches that have been around for a long time and very successful: Doug Luke has 202 wins over 20 seasons the head coach of the Indians, while Maple Grove's coach Curt Fischer has 222 victories in 27 seasons.
Luke said the Indians are ready to go.
"We felt from the day after the championship that we could get back to the Dome," Luke said. "We had our problems this year, including the loss to Greenwich, but it was good for us. That loss might be why we are where we are."
"It would mean the world to me [to win again]," Butz said. "Football in Cambridge is a big deal. If we're able to do it, it's outstanding for our community."
The game, which starts at noon at the Carrier Dome and is the first of five state championship games this weekend, will be on Spectrum Sports TV, on channels 1, 9 and 50 for those in New York with Spectrum Cable. It will also be streamed for those with a Spectrum Cable account.
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