CAMBRIDGE, NY (NEWS10) — Competing for a state title is nothing new for a Cambridge/Salem football program making its third trip to the JMA Wireless Dome in Syracuse in the last seven seasons. But this run from head coach Doug Luke’s squad has been an unlikely one.
The team lost a host of starters from last year’s unit, including starting running back Cliff Lewis, and went through numerous position changes at the beginning of the year. The players quickly embraced their new roles, though, and it’s clearly paid dividends.
“A lot of these kids are playing positions they’ve never played before,” said Luke. “We’ve taken a bunch of running backs, and made them linemen. And we actually took a lineman [Evan Day], and made him a running back. It’s just a matter of repeating, and repeating, and gradually we’ve improved. We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the year.”
After beating their first five opponents by an average of 34 points per game, including a 44-0 thrashing of last year’s Class D champ Greenwich in week five, the team felt they had the makings of something special.
“A lot of people thought that, you know, we were nothin’ better than a second, or third place finisher,” said junior running back Brice Burr. “And that really, really put a fire in our bellies, you know, to go out and prove everybody wrong. And I think after week five it was kinda like, “Alright. We can achieve something special,” and we’re one win away from doing that.”
Cambridge’s last obstacle is Section IV’s Tioga—the reigning Class D champion. The Tigers are a formidable opponent, but Luke doesn’t intend to deviate from the game plan that’s gotten his team to this point.
“We have to do what we can do; we’re not gonna change things for other teams,” said Luke. “Offensively, we won’t be any different from what we’ve been all year. Defensively, we’ll make a few little adjustments, but basically, it’s the same kind of defense that we’ve run all year.”
For the players who grew up watching the Cambridge championship teams of 2016 and 2017, this is a prime opportunity to leave their own mark on the program’s illustrious history. “Growing up here—you’re born and raised into Cambridge football,” said Burr. “To be able to go out into the Dome—with your own team, and not just watching, but playing—that’s something we’re never gonna forget.”
Saturday’s state title clash is set to kick off at noon. If Cambridge can emerge victorious, that will be the fourth state championship the program has claimed since 1999. Tune into NEWS10 for highlights, and a full recap of the action from Saturday’s showdown.