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Young Cambridge team taking its lumps in first football season



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Bears Ryan Callahan (2) and John Hurst (17) struggle to stop the Raiders at the Aug. 31. The Bears have yet to win a game. Robyn Guy/Staff. (click for larger version)
October 10, 2012
MILTON, Ga. – Midway through its first football season, things have gone about as expected for Cambridge, North Fulton's newest high school.

The Bears are 0-5, no surprise for a team playing a varsity schedule against mostly AAAAA opponents with a roster consisting predominantly of freshmen and sophomores.

Cambridge was competitive for most of the game in a 20-0 loss to Osborne several weeks ago, and enjoyed its most productive offensive showing last week at home against Northview in a 62-27 setback that ended with a few minor scuffles between the two teams in the late stages of the game.

"We're learning," Cambridge coach Craig Bennett said after Friday's loss to Northview. "We're getting better every week. But we've got a young team and we've got to get a little more experience."

Unlike Johns Creek, which was able to play a number of games against fellow fledgling programs when it opened in 2009, Cambridge went straight into a varsity schedule against teams in the second largest of the state's six classifications.

The Bears have played just one game against a team they were not physically overmatched by (Osborne), and have one more opportunity later this month against a North Springs team that has not won a game since the 2008 season.

"We can't get caught up in it," Bennett said of the possibility of a winnable game coming up. "We're just learning how to compete against a varsity schedule."

The biggest concern on the field for a team like Cambridge is the disparity in size, strength and experience on the lines of scrimmage.

Northview's defense had been shredded by each of its first four opponents, but still overwhelmed the young Cambridge offensive line.

Other than a 49-yard run in the opening period by talented freshman running back J.D. White, the Bears had minus yards rushing against Northview, with several quarterback sacks and running plays that never reached the line of scrimmage.

"That's where we're the youngest," Bennett said of his offensive line. "We have three freshmen starting, and a lot of the teams we're facing are bigger and stronger.

"In three or four years, I think we'll be phenomenal. But for now they're playing against older guys with three or four years of experience, and you can't coach that."

The Bears have some talent at the skill positions beginning with White, who gave the Cambridge fans something to cheer early in the game when he returned a Northview kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown.

White's 49-yard run and a 14-yard pass on the next play from Kevin Little, one of the few upperclassmen, to A.J. Campbell later in the opening period put the Bears in scoring range.

But Hawk Hammer's 29-yard field goal was nullified by a penalty, and he missed his next attempt from 34 yards out.

By the time the Bears picked up their next first down that was not the result of a Northview penalty, the Titans led 62-14 in the fourth quarter. The Bears' second touchdown came on a 15-yard fumble return by Daion Robertson late in the third period.

The Bears scored twice in the final two minutes, with Little passing 33 yards to Malik Harris and 15 yards to Campbell, giving Little just under 100 yards through the air with only two incompletions in 13 attempts.

White, who Bennett believes "is going to be special," did not carry the ball in the second half. "He's a big part of our offense, but he's just beat up."

The Bears are taking their lumps, something Northview experienced a decade ago when the first-year Titans went 0-10 against an even more formidable schedule, and went 0-10 again the next season.

"We're not worried about wins and losses," Bennett said. "We're just looking for the kids to show a willingness to compete and get better."

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