Instant classic: Greenwich outlasts Cambridge
It absolutely didn't disappoint for drama, but it came out on the wrong end for Cambridge, who fell 43-38 and had its state-long 17-game win streak snapped.
"There's so many variables, I didn't know if it'd be high-scoring or low-scoring," said Cambridge coach Doug Luke. "They were the better team today, more physical then us. They made the play every time they needed to. Hopefully we'll come back and meet them later in the season."
Greenwich's senior quarterback Cole Burgess did the bulk of the damage, rushing 19 times for 201 yards and three touchdowns along with throwing for 166 yards and another touchdown. Earlier in the week, Luke had compared Burgess to Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson for his ability to be a dual threat with the football. None of that opinion changed after Saturday's slugfest.
On the strength of a solid first half, Greenwich led 21-8 heading into the break. But Cambridge, as they are wont to do, came back right away. The Indians got the ball to start the half and rattled off a 65-yard drive on 10 plays, all but one on the ground. English finished off the drive with a 1-yard plunge to pull within 21-14 after the two-pointer failed.
On the next possession, the Cambridge defense held and forced Greenwich's only punt of the day, which the Indians returned to its 42. On that drive, Butz ran for 22 on 3rd-and-10 for a first down and then with the Indians backed up to 3rd-and-13, Rowland found Gabe Sgambettera for a 14-yard pass to keep the drive alive.
Two plays later, English scored from three yards out to make it 21-20, then added the 2-point conversion to come all the way back to take the lead, 22-21, with 4:30 left in the third quarter.
"Offensively in the first half, I thought we were OK," said Luke, when asked about the 21-8 deficit. "We had a fumble and interception on the drives we didn't score, so we could move the ball down the field. The real question at halftime was, how can we stop Cole and we didn't."
The Indians had pretty good days offensively as well. Jonas Butz shook off a minor leg injury to carry the ball 16 times for 143 yards and a touchdown, while his teammate, Tommy English toted the rock 19 times for 108 yards and two scores. Zack Rowland threw for 143 yards and a touchdown out of the quarterback spot, and added a touchdown run, but also threw a pair of interceptions as Cambridge turned the ball over four times.
Greenwich refused to go away, going on a long drive of their own as the third quarter wound down. At one point, Burgess found Joe Smith for 20 yards and third down and on 4th down-and-4 from the Cambridge 44, Burgess sprinted left and ran for 16 yards and a first down.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Reese Cristaldi scored from five yards out to give Greenwich the lead back, 29-22, after a two-point conversion.
On the ensuing possession, Cambridge got into the red zone, but English fumbled and Greenwich recovered with 8:33 left.
Burgess was the man on the next set of downs, running for 34 yards to give the Witches some breathing room and then jaunting through the defense for a 22-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 14 at 36-22.
"We have to find some way if we play them again to at least slow him down. Every third or fourth down, he made the play and we didn't. Good teams make other teams make mistakes, and they did," Luke said.
Cambridge, who was missing receiver and linebacker Brendan Holcomb for almost the entire game after a head injury, then had to rely on its quarterback and receiving corps to score quickly. On 4th-and-3 with 1:18 left, Rowland hooked up with Kaedin Oglivie, for a 48-yard gain down to the Greenwich 7 and then on the next play, Zack Rowland took it in to make it a one-possession game again.
"It changed things, especially defensively," Luke said. "Every team has injuries and that's why you talk about team, someone else has to step up."
An onside kick failed and Greenwich tried to run out the clock, but they did one better when Burgess got free for a 61-yard touchdown to go back up by 13.
Cambridge got a final score with one second remaining, a 29-yard touchdown pass from Rowland to his brother Brad, but an onside kick was recovered by Greenwich, setting off a celebration on the visitors' sideline.
"I wasn't surprised they would come back," said Burgess about Cambridge taking the lead late in the third quarter. "We stepped and saw how we could play."
The early part of the game was solidly in favor of the Witches. They took the opening kick and scored on Cristaldi's 10 yard run to get the lead and then on Cambridge's opening possession, they fumbled and Greenwich recovered. On the next drive, after a lengthy stoppage for Cambridge's Jacob Peters being taken off the field on a stretcher after a head-to-head hit, Greenwich ended up in the end zone again, this time Burgess going in from five yards out.
"We haven't beat Cambridge [since 1998]," Burgess said. "We were the underdogs and pulled it through. I'm sure we'll see them against at Schuylerville [in the Section II, Class D championship]."
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.