Doug Luke is certainly very wary of his Cambridge football team’s next opponent. The Indians have a history with Moriah, including state quarterfinal losses to the Vikings in 2010 and 2013.
Both losses stick in Luke’s craw a little bit, as Cambridge came agonizingly close both times. In a 34-32 loss four years ago, the Indians failed on four two-point conversions.
“They’ve always been pretty good against us,” said Luke, Cambridge’s veteran head coach. “They’re the type of team I don’t like playing against. They’re a power team and they can throw the ball. Teams like that scare me.”
Luke’s unease is shared by Moriah head coach Don Tesar.
“They return three-quarters of the team that won the state championship last year,” said Tesar, who knows Cambridge well. His father, Milt, was Luke’s coach at Cambridge 45 years ago. “They’re a very, very good football team. The things they do, they do well.”
Cambridge and Moriah, both 9-1, square off in a Class D state quarterfinal Friday at 7 p.m. at AuSable Valley High School. The Indians, who have won 22 of their last 23 games and average 53 points per game, hope to reach the state semifinals next week at Middletown.
The Indians and Vikings are nearly mirror images. Both have balanced offenses with strong running and passing attacks led by standout quarterbacks, veteran offensive lines, and rugged, swarming defenses.
Both teams also avenged their only loss of the season. Cambridge defeated Greenwich 40-7 in the Section II championship game Saturday, giving the Indians their 16th sectional title in 21 appearances since 1992.
“The first time we played (Greenwich), I think we were a little overconfident, and they came out and popped us right in the nose,” said Luke, whose team moved up to No. 2 in the state. “(Saturday) we got them in a big hole early and we found the formula to cool down (Cole) Burgess.”
Moriah, which lost to Ticonderoga 20-16 earlier, outslugged the Sentinels 28-22 for the Section VII title two weeks ago. It was the Vikings’ first sectional crown since 2013. They are ranked seventh in the state.
“I know how good Ticonderoga has been from playing them the last few years, and Moriah dominated them up front,” Luke said. “We have an idea what we’re going to do, we have a game plan, but you can’t really tell how tough kids are until you start playing the game.”
Moriah is coming off what was virtually an off week for its starters in a 57-6 blowout of undermanned Tupper Lake in the Section VII-X playoff. The Vikings jumped out to a 37-0 lead in the first quarter.
“My starters ran nine offensive plays in the game,” said Tesar, whose team plays mostly Class B and C schools in the CVAC.
The Vikings, who run a lot of power-I and wishbone sets, are led by running back Connor Anderson (1,156 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns), quarterback Dylan Trombley (1,057 passing yards, 14 TDs) and receiver Jerin Sargent (18 catches, 515 yards, 7 TDs). Trombley is the point guard on Moriah’s state championship basketball team.
“Connor Anderson reminds me of the Cambridge backs — he’s not a big kid, but he’s quick and a tough runner,” Tesar said. “Dylan is a very smart quarterback, he sees a lot of things on the field — he’s changed plays at the line if he sees a better matchup.”
Cambridge is loaded with veteran skill players who played major roles in the Indians’ Class D state championship last year. Senior quarterback Zack Rowland has passed for 1,210 yards and 15 touchdowns, with Brenden Holcomb one of his top targets. The backfield is led by Jonas Butz (786 yards, 13 TDs) and Tommy English (694 yards, 16 TDs), but senior Colton Dean returned to fullback last week and led the Indians with 158 yards and four scores against Greenwich.
“(The Vikings) stack 10 or 11 up at the line of scrimmage at times — we’ll have to put the ball in the air,” Luke said. “On film, they dominated at the line. We’d like to run the ball every play, but I’m not sure if we’ll be able to do that.”