CAMBRIDGE — The surnames English and Rowland have already played a big part in Cambridge’s recent football legacy.
The roles are reversed now, though. Instead of Ethan English handing off to Caleb Rowland, these days it’s Zack Rowland handing off to Tommy English.
Senior quarterback Zack Rowland and junior running back Tommy English are two important cogs in the Indians’ offensive machine, which churns into the Class D state quarterfinals. Cambridge (9-1), the defending state champion, takes on Moriah (9-1) on Friday at 7 p.m. at AuSable Valley High School.
“It’s kind of funny now that I’m handing the ball off to an English — it used to be an English handing off to a Rowland,” Zack Rowland said during a practice at the high school last week.
“It’s a good feeling — Zack’s been my best friend since we were like 2 years old,” Tommy English said. “It’s just fun to play football with him.”
It’s been fun to play football for Cambridge, period, for the last few seasons. The Indians are the defending state Class D champions, and have amassed a three-year record of 30-3.
Zack Rowland is in his second season of directing a high-powered offense, which has amassed 529 points in 10 games. He has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,210 yards and 15 touchdowns. Tommy English has caught nine passes, added 694 rushing yards and scored 18 total TDs.
Their older brothers were teammates on Cambridge’s Section II championship teams in 2013-14 — Ethan English at quarterback, and Caleb Rowland was the lightning in a “thunder-and-lightning” backfield with Chris Warnke.
“It’s great that our older brothers have really worked us. It’s the football tradition here in Cambridge — we’re all family,” Zack Rowland said. “We know once we step on the field here in Cambridge, we’re all going to become like brothers.”
Zack Rowland is similar to Ethan English in that both were very accurate passers directing a run-oriented offense, and neither has great size. Zack, at 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, is bigger than Ethan English was as a senior.
“Zack doesn’t get the publicity that he deserves, and I believe that’s because he doesn’t really get a chance to show it because we’re out of games so quick,” Cambridge head coach Doug Luke said. “You take away the (first) Greenwich game and he’s thrown maybe two passes in the second half of a ballgame.”
“He brings a great attitude — he’s never down on people, he brings a positive intensity to practice and he’s a good quarterback,” Tommy English said of Zack.
At 6 feet and 170 pounds, Tommy English is bigger and more physical than his older brother. He’s a tough runner and catches the ball well out of the backfield, where he usually teams with speedy Jonas Butz in a sort of “lightning-and-lightning” duo, though Colton Dean will also line up at fullback. Like Caleb Rowland, Tommy English is also a hard-hitting defensive back, but he can also back up Zack Rowland at quarterback. In fact, during the Section II semifinals against Warrensburg, Zack caught a pass from Tommy on a trick play to set up a first-quarter touchdown.
“Tommy English, he was going to be groomed as a quarterback, and who knows, maybe someday he will,” Luke said. “He’s a different kind of kid than Ethan — he’s much more aggressive. He wants the contact. He makes mistakes, but it’s usually an aggressive mistake, and we can handle that.”
“He can run the ball so hard, he makes such great cuts and he’s a great receiver,” Zack Rowland said. “He’s one of the best route runners next to Brenden (Holcomb) and Jonas. If I can’t look for them, I resort to him because he’s got great hands, he knows where to be and he knows how to read the defense, and he can make plays for us.”