SYRACUSE, NY (NEWS10) — Five Section II football teams entered the semifinals of the NYSPHSAA playoffs last weekend, and only one emerged victorious: Cambridge/Salem, the program with the most postseason success in the section. But Cambridge’s bid for a fourth state title fell short Saturday; head coach Doug Luke’s squad lost 63-20 inside the JMA Wireless Dome to a Section IV Tioga team that claimed its’ second straight championship.
Of Luke’s many shining moments at the helm of Cambridge, winning a state title with this year’s team – given all the position changes and roster shuffling the group went through at the start of the year – would’ve arguably been his greatest feat yet.
But they ran into a Tigers squad that hadn’t lost a game in 19 months, and was on a mission Saturday afternoon.
After a Cambridge punt to start the game, Tioga made a statement on its’ opening drive, carving right through Cambridge’s defense before junior running back Ousamane Duncanson powered into the end zone from 12 yards out for the first score.
Cambridge’s offense showed glimpses of being able to drive the ball downfield on its’ following possession; eighth-grade quarterback Stephen Yakubec delivered a 19-yard pass to sophomore receiver Baxter Mattson to get into Tigers territory.
But later that series, Yakubec was picked off by Drew Macumber, who returned the interception 58 yards for a house call that gave Tioga a 14-0 edge with 13 seconds to play in the first quarter.
The Tigers would go on to add three more touchdowns in the second quarter and take a 35-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Cambridge showed some life in the second half, finding pay dirt on three occasions. All three scores came on the ground: Yakubec on a one-yard QB sneak in the third quarter, junior running back Brice Burr on an eight-yard scamper in the fourth frame, and sophomore back Isaiah Lohret followed that up with a five-yard score of his own.
The first-half deficit was just too much to overcome, though, and Tioga rolled to the 63-20 victory for its’ second state title in as many seasons.
After the game, Luke recalled what contributed to his team’s first-half struggles, but also reflected on what a special year his group had.
“I think when we got behind by a touchdown, or two, we started panicking,” said Luke. “And…things just kind of fell apart. I think…our offense scored three touchdowns for them…and early. (But) to come this far is really an accomplishment. We didn’t finish what we hoped we’d finish, but…that doesn’t take anything away of how fun…the season was, and the things that we did, and the things that were accomplished. So, we’ll just kinda toss this one away, and we’ll start all over again next year.”
Cambridge ends the season at 13-1, and posted a perfect, 7-0 mark in league play. Another deep run is certainly in play for next year’s squad, considering they’ll return Yakubec, Burr, and junior running back Brayton Cary, who accounted for 668 yards and eight touchdowns this season.