With new competition, Cambridge aims to defend title

CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. — The Class D football landscape has changed a lot from last year, with some of the top Class C teams in Section II making the move down based on a new New York state enrollment cutoff.

But for defending Class D champion Cambridge and long-time head coach Doug Luke, that's fine. He'd rather play the top teams every week.

"Some of the D's that dropped down were some of the better Cs. Greenwich has won [Class] C the last two years," said Luke, who comes into the 2017 season with 191 career victories. "The competition is really good, much better, and that's to our liking, I would rather play a good team every week. It's hard playing some of the teams that are down and it's hard being down, but it's hard getting the kids fired up for it. I'm not disappointed at all that these teams came down to the D's, in fact I wish we got to play them all."

Two of the catalysts from last year's 13-0 record, including Ryan McLenithan and the receiver of the 2-point pass that won the state championship in Shawn Lemieux.

But as always at Cambridge, there's a next-man-up mentality.

"It's exactly that and Jonas [Butz] is the next man up," Luke said. "Jonas was our wingback, he didn't run a lot last year, but he's capable. As much as we'll miss Ryan and Maurice [Seymore], that's 2,000 yards right there, we have kids that can fill in."

Butz carried the ball 44 times for 605 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago, the fourth-highest yard total on the team.

Luke mentioned a handful of others, including Colton Dean, now a senior, who ran for 880 yards and 16 scores last year.

"Tommy English has gotten bigger and stronger and he saw time last year. Jonas has been here for two years. Colton is coming back, we've had Brendan Holcomb back there a little bit," Luke said. "Our depth is good in the skill spots and I expect a lot of guys to get time."

Quarterback is also set, with senior Zack Rowland leading the way under center.

Rowland threw for 1,321 yards and 20 touchdowns against only three interceptions.

"He's learned a lot as far as what he gained last year, he went from a quarterback with little experience to one who only threw three interceptions all year," Luke said. "He learned a lot and I expect him to take another step up."

On the line, three return from a year ago, including Max Hoffer, LJ Johnson and Nathan Genevick.

"Max had a great year in his first season on the line and LJ and Nathan both started as sophomores," Luke said. "Offensive line will be a key but we still have to find a couple of guys."

The schedule keeps Cambridge on the road for nearly the entire month of September as the first four games of the year are away.

They open with Rensselaer on Friday night, Sept. 1, before traveling to Kingston's Dietz Stadium to play a non-conference matchup against Section I's Albertus Magnus.

"They had a bye and so did we, so it worked out," Luke said. "Kingston is a place with a good reputation. I don't mind going down there, unfortunately we lose a home game. They were a relatively good team [last season], so it's good competition for us. That's how you get better."

The rest of the schedule has Cambridge at Fort Edward and Whitehall before facing Greenwich on Sept. 30. Then Cambridge faces Salem and Helderberg Valley before the final game of the regular season at Granville.

"We're pretty pleased how they've looked the first few days," Luke said. "We're happy with what happening so far."


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