TAMPA — In 2015, Cambridge Christian made school history by competing for a state championship for the first time. So when the 2016 campaign began, the Lancers knew exactly on what to set their sights.
The potential to fulfill that goal, however, came crashing down in Week 2, when star two-way player Caleb Young went down with a torn ACL, which sidelined him for the rest of the season.
The Lancers still had a successful 2016 slate, walking away with their second straight undefeated regular season before falling in the second round of the playoffs to Northside Christian.
"It was a great loss last year. Not only did we lose him, but we lost (wide receiver and cornerback) Zach Froelich later in the season. It was a really unusual year," coach Bob Dare said. "I think Caleb was a big difference in how far we went last year compared to the year before."
Young, whose older brother, Garrett, plays at Michigan Tech and owns the majority of the Lancers' passing records, has officially been cleared for contact but will be held out of Friday's spring game against Calvary Christian as a precaution.
Still, the wide receiver and defensive back can't wait to finally take the field again, because while the injury originally set him back, he said that it's resulted in him being an even stronger player.
"I worked harder than I ever have before coming back from it. At the start, it was my goal to play spring football … every day when I was doing therapy, I had that in the back of my mind," said Young, who did this as a sophomore. "It definitely hurt me mentally, but I've come back. I'm stronger, I'm faster than I was before the injury, and I've trained way harder."
As a sophomore in 2015, Young led the Lancers with 378 receiving yards, and he had 52 tackles and five interceptions. Young said the injury has set him back in recruiting because he doesn't have a lot of junior film to show college coaches, but the rising senior intends to make up for lost time at upcoming camps and when the Lancers open their season in August against Winter Garden's Foundation Academy.
Young will be a big part of a Cambridge Christian squad looking to continue its recent dominance this season. Before their state runnerup finish in 2015, the Lancers had never appeared in the playoffs, but they haven't dropped a regular-season game since a loss to Northside Christian on Oct. 3, 2014.
It's a streak that's significant to the Lancers, four-star offensive lineman Richard Gouraige said, but there's another accomplishment they've been eyeing even more.
"It means a lot, but it means we still have to be humble and just go every game, play our best, come to practice, and learn from the coaching," he said. "My first hope is going to the playoffs, and then looking ahead to the championship and winning it all. But we're going to worry about one game at a time."