Perhaps Section II football can be forgiven for overlooking Chatham this season. The Panthers seem to have snuck up on everyone.
After cruising through the weaker Class C South, Chatham was seeded third in Class C. Then the Panthers proceeded to take down two of the top contenders — Stillwater and Holy Trinity — in the last two weeks.
Chatham’s 28-18 semifinal victory over defending Section II champion Holy Trinity on Sunday was an eye-opener to Cambridge-Salem and head coach Doug Luke.
“Chatham dominated them right from the beginning,” said Luke, whose Indians face Chatham in the Class C championship game Friday at 7 p.m. at Lansingburgh High School. The winner advances to the state quarterfinals against either Saranac or Ogdensburg Free Academy next weekend at a northern site.
Cambridge-Salem — 9-0 and on a 17-game winning streak, and winner of 34 of its last 35 games — has been the No. 1-ranked team in Class C all season. Chatham (8-1), which lost only to Greene of Section IV, has never won a Section II football title in five tries, most recently in 2013.
“Chatham looked extremely good,” Luke said. “You’re guessing during the season how good other teams are, and they’re much better than we anticipated. With all the hype on Trinity and Stillwater, they just went through both of them.”
“Cambridge is obviously a good team — we scrimmaged them at the beginning of the season and we know they’re a very physical team,” said Chatham head coach Rich Sitzer, whose team is ranked 11th in the state. “They have a couple of good backs and a big offensive line. They’ll be a big test for us.”
The Panthers bring a balanced offense with speed on both sides of the ball. They are led by running back Triston Schermerhorn, who has rushed for 974 yards and scored 21 touchdowns, and quarterback Kaleb Taylor, who has passed for 725 yards and 11 TDs. Both are seniors who operate behind a big offensive line.
You have free articles remaining.
Against Holy Trinity, Schermerhorn pounded the Pride with 156 yards on 32 carries and threw a halfback option pass for a score.
“Their offensive line dominated Holy Trinity’s defense and they ran straight at them,” Luke said. “They’re more of a power team — they’ll run straight at you and then hit you with the play-action pass. Until you get on the line of scrimmage, you just don’t know how you match up.”
“We have a balanced attack, we can run the ball and Kaleb Taylor is one of the best quarterbacks we’ve had at reading defenses and making good throws,” Sitzer said. “Defensively, the same thing, our guys up front have been able to handle big, physical teams like Stillwater and a team with a lot of speed like Holy Trinity.”
Cambridge-Salem comes in with experience as two-time Class D state champions, and players like all-state lineman Nate Genevick and running backs Tommy English and Tyler Linendoll are back to lead the way. The merger with Salem bumped the Indians up to Class C this season.
English is the area’s leading rusher with 1,249 yards and has scored 24 touchdowns overall. He rushed for 287 yards and four scores in Saturday’s 35-14 semifinal win over Hoosick Falls.
“Him putting on pounds and working on his footwork in the offseason is paying off,” Luke said. “He broke a ton of tackles on Saturday. Hopefully we get two, three or four guys going this week.”
Cambridge-Salem will need to pass the ball better — junior Calvin Schneider and his receivers have been works in progress this season.
“It’s not our first time here, and that may be our only advantage in this game,” Luke said. “Each week gets harder, but that’s what you expect in the sectional finals. Hopefully, we can take one more step up.”