Who: Maple Grove Red Dragons (12-0) vs. II-Cambridge Indians (12-0)
When: noon Friday
Where: Syracuse University Carrier Dome
Television: Time Warner Cable Sportsnet
Rankings: Maple Grove is ranked No. 2 in the News Small Schools Poll and No. 1 in the state poll. Cambridge is ranked second in the state.
State final records: Maple Grove is 2-0 beating II-Lake George (39-6) in 1998 and VII-Moriah (55-7) in 2008. Cambridge is 1-3 beating Clymer (28-0) in 1999 and losing to Dehli in Class C in 2001 (39-21), Onondaga in Class D in 2003 (41-21) and Randolph in Class D in 2005 (35-6).
Coaches: Maple Grove, Curt Fischer, 26th season (211-44); Cambridge, Doug Luke, 19th season (179-29).
Maple Grove key players and statistics: Sr. RB Bradley Benson, 5-8/175 (191-1,557, 30 TDs), Sr. QB Dalton Dubois, 5-10/150 (30-55, 568 yards, 13 TDs; 44 rushes, 346, 2 TDs), Sr. WR/DB Mitch Padilla, 6-2/165 (13-139, 4 TDs; 5 INTs, 1 TD), Sr. RB/LB Trevor Micek, 5-10/185 (63-558, 8 TDs; 148 tackles), Jr. WR/DB Nick Fabrizio, 6-2/205 (14-171, 7 TDs), So. QB/DB Easton Tanner, 5-10/150 (9-19, 78 yards, 3 TD).
Cambridge key players and statistics: Jr. QB/S Zack Rowland, 5-10/142 (62-86, 1,175 yards, 18 TDs, 1 INT), Sr. RB Ryan McLenithan, 5-8/160 (111-1,266 yards, 17 TDs), Sr. RB Maurice Seymore, 6-0/182 (65-858, 14 TDs, 1 receiving TD), Jr. FB/DL Colton Dean, 6-2/207 (117-838, 16 TDs; 56 tackles, 2acks), Jr. TE/LB Brendan Holcomb, 6-3/220 (22-440, 5 TDs; 106 tackles, Jr. RB/DB Jonas Butz, 5-8/153 (38-577, 7 TDs; 84 tackles).
How they got here: Maple Grove advanced with a 56-20 rout of Section IV champion Sidney in the state semifinal last Friday at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. Bradley Benson rushed for a game-high 140 yards and Maple Grove’s first three touchdowns before leaving the game with an ankle injury late in the second quarter. The Red Dragons used a 29-0 run to end the second quarter to turn a six-point game into a rout. Nelson Nash returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown during the blitz, while Easton Tanner tossed two 7-yard touchdown passes (one each to Nick Fabrizio and Trevor Micek).
Cambridge pummeled Section I’s Haldane, 61-6, in the other state semifinal in Kingston. Ryan McLenithan scored on a 62-yard run just 20 seconds into the contest as the Indians amassed 606 yards in total offense. He finished with 181 yards and two scores on 11 rushes. Maurice Seymore and Jonas Butz each finished with two touchdowns as Cambridge scored on nine of their first 10 drives.
Pre-snap read: The Red Dragons face a team that’s very similar to them as the Indians run well and have blanketed foes on defense.
Maple Grove won’t change what it does best – run – even though it may be forced to move some of its athletes around to compensate for potential absences of key personnel, including senior running back Bradley Benson. But look for Red Dragons coach Curt Fischer to add a wrinkle in his offense that hasn’t been caught on tape since a surprise here and there could tilt the scales in his team’s favor in this winner-takes-all game.
The Red Dragons have used sound technique and athleticism to overcome foes with size all season.
They will have to do that again Friday. Maple Grove will run a lot and call just enough pass plays in key spots while getting after it on defense.
Cambridge runs an uptempo offense (outscoring foes on average 55-7) but likes to keep it on the ground with McLenithan, Seymore, Butz and Colton Dean. They have combined for 54 rushing touchdowns and more than 3,400 yards. They do have a solid quarterback in Zack Rowland, who has completed 72.1 percent of his passes for 18 touchdowns and one Interception.
Maple Grove will be well-prepared on defense, as it must use its speed and intelligence to slow down Indians’ high-powered offense.
Red Dragons also must establish their run game not only as a way of keeping Cambridge’s offense from getting into a rhythm but also to break the Indians’ will.
One thing is certain: Both teams should be well-prepared for their toughest tests of the season – which should hopefully make for an entertaining game.