By Zach Shugan
MILTON, Ga. — Cambridge fans couldn’t have asked for much better of a performance in the team’s first-ever home playoff game.
With three seed South Paulding in town for the first round of the GHSA 6A playoffs, the two seed Bears took control early and had their way with the Spartans most of the night en route to a 50-29 win.
“I think we came out with a really good mentality, which we haven’t done the last couple weeks,” Cambridge head coach Craig Bennett said. “We really focused on staying focused and getting ready to play, and they did a great job.”
Jack Marlow started at running back in place of the banged up Christian Isibor and rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns. The junior set the tone early for the Bears, returning the opening kickoff into South Paulding territory then rushing 28 yards for a touchdown.
“Man, it was awesome,” Marlow said. “We had to set the tone, and then we finished it.”
By halftime, Cambridge led 23-0 behind another rushing touchdown from Marlow, a 29-yard field goal by Connor Noone and a 36-yard touchdown pass from Zach Harris (200 passing yards, 36 rushing yards) to Cade Ellington (5 receptions for 105 yards).
South Paulding showed its first sign of life with a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, but the Bears settled back in and scored three unanswered touchdowns to go up 43-7 on the Spartans.
Harris, Marlow, Ben Ridenour and Preston Clemmer all had rushing touchdowns in the second half as the Bears padded their lead.
South Paulding reached the end zone three times in the final six minutes of the game to make the final score a bit more respectable, but the damage done by Cambridge was irreversible.
For the second year in a row, the Bears (9-1) will appear in the second round of the playoffs. They’ll hit the road next week to take on Lee County (10-1), the No. 2-ranked team in Class 6A.
Last year, the Bears were eliminated in the second round by the Buford Wolves, who went on to defeat Lee County in overtime of the 6A state championship.
“We’re drawing some of the tougher draws in the last two years to play Buford and now to go play Lee County, but I think playing Buford last year helps,” Bennett said. “Our kids kind of know what to expect. They’re gonna be a really good football team.”