SYRACUSE — Colton Dean was only kidding, but he had envisioned hurdling a defender for a touchdown in Friday’s Class D state football championship at the Carrier Dome.
Cambridge’s big senior fullback did just that in the fourth quarter — putting an exclamation point on the Indians’ second straight state title.
“I had been joking around with my teammates that I’m gonna jump someone today, because when I run through the hole, everybody dives at my ankles,” said Dean, whose 9-yard touchdown run with 4:50 left sealed Cambridge’s 26-14 victory over Maple Grove.
“Never once when I said that was I being serious about it, but — instant reaction — I saw the kid on the ground so I jumped him,” he added, referring to Red Dragons defender Zach Fischer, who dove for Dean’s legs at the goal line.
“He told me on the way here that he had daydreamed twice about hurdling over a guy,” senior lineman Max Hoffer said. “I think he was preparing for that.”
Putting the ball in the hands of the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Dean — and fellow running backs Tommy English and Tyler Linendoll — was Cambridge’s entire plan in the fourth quarter: pound the ball and burn clock.
The decisive drive — 68 yards on 14 punishing rushes — came after Maple Grove had returned an interception to pull within 19-14, and chewed nearly six minutes off the clock.
The Indians rode the backs of their offensive line — particularly the right side of Hoffer, Nate Genevick and tight end Brenden Holcomb — which allowed Cambridge to rush for 279 yards and wear down the Red Dragons.
“We just stayed behind them that whole drive and said, ‘Here we come, stop us if you can,’” Indians head coach Doug Luke said. “There was no strategy, we were just going to run it right at them.”
“Our line, that was everything,” Dean said. “Our offensive and defensive lines set the tone for the whole game. Maple Grove was really good at crashing down on the plays, but I had those initial holes at the beginning where we could still get those 3-4 yards per carry. I love the group of guys we’re playing with.”
On his game-sealing touchdown, Dean ran untouched through a huge hole, part of his game-high 78 yards on 18 carries.
“That feels great as a lineman because if there’s a huge hole, that means we did our job,” Hoffer said. “You’re not always out front lead-blocking, but as long as you get your guy and open the hole a little bigger, we know our backs will make guys miss or run guys over.”
The Indians’ offensive front, which averages 250 pounds, proved too much for Maple Grove over the course of the game.
“They’re huge — that is one big football team right there, they just wore us down,” Red Dragons head coach Curt Fischer said. “Their physicality and their size wore us down, without a doubt. … In every part of the game, they’re just so big, and physically our kids were just getting beat up.”
“We take a lot of pride in what we do,” said Genevick, the Indians’ 6-3, 245-pound junior guard. “Coach (Chad) Burr always says to play with a lot of pride and a lot of heart, and you’ll come out with a victory.”
“We knew we had to finish the game,” Hoffer said. “We were up, but not by enough. We knew we had to take time off the clock and score a touchdown. And that’s just what we did, pound the ball with our good running backs — Colton, Tommy and Tyler — running the ball hard. We get a good push and they get that 5 yards and the clock’s still running — that’s exactly what we needed.”