SYRACUSE -- Going for two enabled No. 2 Cambridge to end state No. 1 Maple Grove's quest to add to its state football championship collection Friday afternoon.
Quarterback Zack Rowland's play action pass to tight end Shawn Lemieux on the conversion following Maurice Seymore's 8-yard touchdown run provided the decisive point Cambridge needed to capture its first state title since 1999 as it defeated the Red Dragons, 22-21, in double overtime in the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Class D final at the Carrier Dome.
The Section VI champion Red Dragons had plenty of chances to win this one, including a first-and-goal at the 8 they fumbled away to end a scoreless first overtime period. They took the lead when Nick Fabrizio scored on a 2-yard run on their second overtime possession. Michael Padilla's third extra-point kick of the day made it 21-14 Maple Grove.
All the Red Dragons needed to do was protect the lead. They almost did it, forcing Cambridge into a fourth-and-10 situation from Maple Grove's 20 (each team starts overtime possessions at its opponent 20). Rowland's pass over the middle on the play seemed like it would either be picked or knocked down but Brendan Holcomb came into the picture late to snag the 12-yard completion just ahead of the Red Dragons' Bradley Benson.
On the next play, Maurice Seymore scored on an 8-yard run putting Cambridge veteran coach Doug Luke into making a tough call. Go for the game-tying conversion kick or go for two. He opted for two, meaning one team was going to be celebrating wildly after that play.
It wound up being the Indians.
Kicking themselves: Maple Grove did not play its best game in this one but still had chances to emerge victorious.
The Red Dragons had the last possession of the first overtime and had first-and-goal at the 10 after a 10-yard Benson run. But a fumbled exchange between quarterback Dalton Dubois and Benson wound up being recovered by Seymore.
Maple Grove also dropped two potential touchdown passes on drives it came away with no points. It also missed on a 32-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter.
Hail Mary! Coach Curt Fischer said he prayed that Benson and Dubois would be healthy enough to play in the biggest game of the season. His prayers were answered as both took warmups and played offense and defense after missing or being limited in practice this past week with ankle injuries.
Dubois hurt his ankle in the Section VI final win over Franklinville/Ellicottville three weeks ago. Benson got injured during last week's semifinal win over Sidney.
Benson rushed 23 times for a game-high 139 yards. Dubois made nine tackles on defense. He struggled throwing, completing just 3 of 11 but three passes were dropped.
Factor back: Wide receiver Nick Fabrizio was the surprise X-factor during last week's win over Sidney, rushing seven times for 70 yards and a TD after carrying the ball just once prior to the contest. He was even better Friday, rushing 15 times for 89 yards and three touchdowns. He gained tough yardage on a couple of occasions when it seemed like Cambridge tacklers had him for a loss. He also caught two passes for 33 yards.
Stat leaders: Red Dragons senior Trevor Micek finished with 13 tackles and was a force serving as a lead blocker on offense.
Nash Nelson made an interception for Maple Grove at Cambridge's 39 that set up its game-tying touchdown late in the second quarter. He also made four tackles.
Seymore rushed 11 times for 63 yards, while Jonas Butz had 62 yards on eight carries for the Indians. Rowland completed 6 of 13 passes with a 60-yard TD pass off a middle screen to Butz and an interception. Holcomb made 13 tackles to lead the Cambridge defense.
Wardrobe malfunction: A communication error via email exchange between the teas resulted in both showing up to play in Friday's game wearing white jerseys. At least Maple Grove had black helmets and red pants, not to be confused with the Indians' white helmets and orange pants.
State final history: Maple Grove is now 2-1 after winning titles in 2008 and 1998. Cambridge improves to 2-3, winning its first crown since 1999.
State rankings: Maple Grove came in ranked first in Class D, while Cambridge was No. 2.
Records: Cambridge 13-0, Maple Grove 12-1.
Attendance: An estimated 1,500.
Next: The offseason for both teams.