Experienced Indians prepare for Moriah Friday
These are the same lights the Indians played under last year when a double-overtime gamble to go for a two-point conversion against Maple Grove brought Cambridge a state championship and elation to the population of the small village in eastern New York.
Before the Indians can even think about making a return trip to Syracuse, they have a job on their hands and two games to get through if they want to reach that pinnacle once again.
The first of those games comes tonight when No. 2 Cambridge makes the two-hour drive up north to AuSable Valley High School for the Class D state quarterfinals against No.7 Moriah.
In many ways, the Vikings are very similar to the Indians. Moriah has dominated in most of its games throughout the season, scoring over 30 points in all but two of its games. The Vikings lone loss came on September 29 against Ticonderoga in a close 20-16 game. They were able to get revenge on the Sentinels with a late season 28-22 win on October 27.
Cambridge's season has been eerily similar in the fact that its last loss game just a day after Moriah's on September 30 against Greenwich, and like the Vikings, got revenge in its last game topping the Witches 40-7 last Saturday.
In a game against a team very similar to their own, Indians coach Doug Luke knows his team will have a tough matchup on their hands in tonight's game.
"They have a power running game and a quarterback that can throw, so we've got to be ready for anything," Luke said during Friday's practice. "It's a very vanilla package, but they do it very well."
"They're big and they like to hit hard," senior quarterback Zack Rowland added. "They don't slouch over and let team's run all over them, which is what we love to look forward to to make us better."
Cambridge has been preparing all week to try to slow down that strong offensive attack and also find a way to generate its own offense against a stout Vikings defense. They feel like they will be ready to execute their game plan tonight.
"We've been watching film all week. Coach Luke's been going over the offense and what we need to beat their defense," Rowland said. "Coach (Adam) Burr has been doing a great job with the defense having them read their keys and how to react."
Moriah is paced offensively by running back Connor Anderson, who has 1156 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. Quarterback Dylan Trombley has also had a big season, passing for 1057 yards and 14 touchdowns. Trombley leads the team in interceptions on defense with four. Teammate Braden Swan has three interceptions this season.
The Indians, much like a majority of team's in the area, are a team that is predicated on a strong rushing attack. While Rowland has proven to be one of the top quarterbacks in the area and his leadership has been incredibly valuable, it has been the running game that has driven Cambridge to position they find themselves in tonight.
The Indians rushed for 387 yards as a team last week against Greenwich and a repeat performance would go a long way to clinching Cambridge's spot in the state semifinals.
It's no secret that the Indians have been here before and they know what to expect on this stage, but they know this game has to be treated as any other once the kickoff happens.
"Experience does help, no question about it," Luke said. "You've been here and done it. It's just another game. It's not something special. When it's all over and done with, we can say it's a big win, but we have to take the week just like any other week. We put a great game plan together and we hope the kids finish it off."
Rowland was the quarterback for Cambridge's championship run last season and he believes that experience factor will only help the Indians as they continue to go farther in the playoffs.
"The experience pretty much helps us so we know when to fix things," Rowland said. "If somethings not going right, we know how to fix it. If a team's beating us, we know what we have to do to beat them."
As much as it's possible to complicate things this time of the season, Luke knows his team has to keep it simple and execute what brought them to this point.
"We need to do what we're supposed to do and not lose focus on our assignments. If we do that, we're in pretty good shape."
Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. at AuSable Valley High School in Clintonville, N.Y.
Adam Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com and at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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