TAMPA — No Andrew Cunningham, no problem for Cambridge Christian.
The Lancers (8-2) took down visiting Southwest Florida Christian (4-4) with a 63-17 victory in the Class 2A region semifinal Friday. The Kings, a team in its eighth year of existence, were making their first appearance in the playoffs.
Cambridge Christian advances to next Friday’s region final where it will face an Indian Rocks Christian group fresh off a 45-6 win over Admiral Farragut on Friday.
Cunningham, a senior running back, underwent surgery this week to repair a torn ACL suffered in an overtime loss to Victory Christian on Oct. 20. That meant a heavier workload for senior playmakers Jaylin Jackson, Ricky Mann and Caleb Young.
"I was pretty sure we could execute some. I think we had more dudes than they had," Cambridge Christian head coach Bob Dare said. "I want to make sure obviously we are trying to do some things differently without Cunningham to pound the rock. I’m trying not to kill my quarterback there, running the ball too often."
Jackson tossed four touchdown passes (32, 25, 7, and 5) as he made plays with his legs all night long. The quarterback had a 33-yard run where he weaved through six defenders down the left sideline and nearly scored.
Young replaced a nicked-up Jackson on the next play and he took the snap slightly right in for a touchdown. He then ran for the 2-point conversion on the ground.
"Back when he (Young) was a freshman he played a little bit of quarterback. The big thing was if he’d follow in his brother’s footsteps or not," Dare said. "I knew he’d be able to do on that play. He’s just a gamer. He’s been a leader for us since he’s a freshman. I’d like to get the ball in his hands a little more often."
Another senior standout was Daryl Mercer Jr., who caught two touchdown passes and ripped away an interception from Southwest Florida Christian running back Brandon Lawrence in the second quarter.
Mann did more of the same for his Lancers group with three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) and an interception in the second quarter he took 39 yards near the end zone.
Senior Aaron Racki and freshman Preston Snider each had touchdown receptions.
Defensively, senior linebacker Scott Ater had 10 tackles and a sack.
Now, Cambridge Christian turns its attention to Indian Rocks Christian, a team it knows very well.
"They run the ball well. Their jet sweeps and power run game," Dare said. "They are going to try to pound us. We have to make sure we are ready on defense. I feel that offensively that we’ll be able to execute. We’ll do some adjustments this week and be ready to go."