MILTON, Ga. — If the first two meetings between Alpharetta and Cambridge are any indication, their rivalry could be one of most entertaining in North Fulton.
On Friday night, the second contest between the teams featured another close, hard-fought game from both squads with Alpharetta taking the 14-6 win. Friday’s game followed last year’s 21-19 win for Alpharetta that was decided on the final play of the game.
“We have to realize every time we line up against a Cambridge football team they are going to give us everything they’ve got,” Alpharetta head coach Jacob Nichols said. “I told (Cambridge head coach) Craig Bennett his team is salty, they’re tough and I look forward to the future of this series.”
It wasn’t a pretty win for Alpharetta. The Raiders committed seven penalties, including a personal foul behind the play that negated a run that would have set them up with first-and-goal late in the third quarter. Their offense was also held to just 58 yards before the final three minutes of the first half and never found much of rhythm beyond their two scoring drives.
But it was still a win.
“We just had some breakdowns and didn’t execute in the first half,” Nichols said. “Even though it still wasn’t pretty, we executed much better in the second half.”
That included picking up Cambridge’s relentless pressure on Alpharetta quarterback Matthew Downing and managing 162 yards rushing.
Cambridge’s Victor Valentine would hit two field goals of 42 and 23 yards in the first half to give the Bears a 6-0 lead, with both drives starting within Alpharetta territory while Cambridge’s offense struggled to move the ball.
Cambridge would be held to just 36 yards in the first half. They would accumulate just 102 offensive yards in the game.
“The defense was outstanding again,” Nichols said. “They’re playing out of their minds.”
After failing to move the ball most of the first half, Alpharetta needed just over two minutes to drive 80 yards and take a 7-6 lead in the final minute of the second quarter.
On the first play of the drive, Cambridge’s pressure forced Downing to scramble and change directions, but he would find Nolan Edmonds alone in the flat. Edmonds brought in the pass and scampered 42 yards into Bears’ territory.
Five plays later, Edmonds found the end zone on six-yard rush up the middle.
Midway through the third quarter, another big pass from Downing began a scoring drive. Marcus Hill came down with a 40-yard diving catch inside the Bears’ 10-yard line to set up another Edmonds touchdown rush.
The Bears couldn’t get past midfield in the second half, but an Alpharetta punt with just 16 seconds left gave them some hope of a miracle comeback from their own 14-yard line.
Cambridge’s Evan Kuykendall came down with a catch near midfield as time expired. His lateral would be picked up by Alpharetta to seemingly end the game, but a roughing the passer call gave Cambridge an untimed down and one more shot.
Hogan Dykes pass to Kuykendall would fall incomplete.
With the win, Alpharetta (7-1, 6-0) still controls their own destiny with two games remaining against Dunwoody and Chattahoochee.
Nichols said the focus will be on limiting penalties and staying focused.
“We definitely don’t want to have any distractions,” he said. “It doesn’t get any easier, for sure.”
The loss brought the Bears’ win-streak to an end at three games. Cambridge (3-6, 3-4) will need a win in their season finale against North Atlanta next Friday and some outside help to secure the fourth and final playoff spot in the region.