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OFA gears up for regional game vs Saranac Lake

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After OFA secured a 28-26 overtime victory by stopping Potsdam’s try for a tying two-point conversion, Coach Matt Tessmer talked to his team about how the play defined their season.

The play also capsulated a season of enormous offensive and defensive development where the 8-1 Blue Devils secured five of their eight victories on the last possession of the game.

Either by stopping their opponent’s last try for a score or maintaining possession to defend a lead the Devils secured regular season wins over Tupper Lake, Massena, St. Lawrence Central and Malone as a prelude to the Class C title game victory over the previously undefeated Sandstoners.

The number-10 state-ranked Devils will look to extend their season into the New York State Quarter-Finals on Friday night as they host unranked Section 7 champion Saranac Lake in a regional contest at Massena Central (7 p.m. start).

The winner of that game will play the Section 2 Champion at a site in Section 2 the following weekend.

RED STORM RESILIENT

Saranac Lake enters the contest with a 5-4 record but has shown the pride, determination and ability to overcome adversity which has marked the Saranac Lake program for as long as high school football has been played in the North Country.

To claim the Section 7 title the Red Storm bounced back from consecutive losses and reversed a 34-13 defeat to Saranac Central by beating the Chiefs 30-28 without injured all-star linebacker-fullback in Lance Anderson.

Sophomore quarterback Tristan Fitzgerald, who went 9-13 through the air for 104 yards, threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Dylan Gunther with 1:03 to play. Gunther caught five passes for 85 yards in the game and rushed for 78 yards. Trent Fitzgerald rushed for a game-high 86 yards.

“Saranac Lake is extremely quick and they have good skill people just like they always do,” said Coach Tessmer.

“They try and spread you out.”

OFFENSIVE WAVE

OFA enters the game on a four-game winning streak and riding an offensive upheaval generated from a power running game with old school fullback Jordan McCormick and new wave quarterback Josh Liebstein out of their spread formation. A formation fronted by an offensive line executing its blocks, pulls and traps at an extremely high level.

In the win streak, after returning from an injury, Liebstein (49x79-3-626 14 TDs) has taken nine keepers to the endzone and thrown eight touchdown passes operating effectively from the pocket and on the roll-out.

McCormick (team high 105-789), ran for 111 yards and the go-ahead overtime touchdown against the Stoners.

Wingback Jon Rogers, who has a combined eight touchdowns through passing and runner on the season, is averaging over five yards a carry in the four game-winning streak.

Diversity has made the offensive unit extremley difficult to defend. Liebstein has scored 10 touchdowns followed by flanker Nick Sweeney with nine touchdown catches, Rogers and McCormick with eight TDs, flanker Jon Tayler with five TD catches and backup fullback Taylor Richardson with five TD runs.

NAC, WEEKLY AWARDS

First Team All-NAC honors went to Kevin Goolden (Lineman of the Year), Josh Liebstein, Jordan McCormick, Nolan Rufa and Jon Tayler. Jake King was a Second Team selection and Zach Barr received the team’s NAC Sportsmanship Award.

The offensive line of Zach Barr, Deven Compo, Jake King, Kevin Goolden and Nolan Rufa was honored by the coaching staff with the Offensive Player of the Week Award after the win over Potsdam. McCormick was named the Defensive Player of the Week for his outstanding game at linebacker which featured three stops in the Potsdam backfield in the second half.

The Hard Worker of the Week Award went to special teams stalwart, Spencer “Fishy” Mayette, for his work the scout team filling the role of Potsdam’s standout halfback O’den Robertson in practice.

“Obviously he couldn’t do the things that O’den can do but Fishy kept running the ball and running the ball in practice and getting hit hard by our starters. But he jumped right up everytime and kept running the ball,” said Assistant Coach Tony Williams.

“I am so glad that young man played football this year.”

That OFA defense has distinguished itself with its aggressive physical play coming of age when McCormick, Liebstein and Jon Tayler all returned to action from physical problems. “After last year we decided to change our defense into an odd-man front. With Jon Tayler, Josh Liebstein, Taylor Bouchard and Cody Rolfe, who is as physical at cornerback as we have had here in years, back in the secondary we have the option to do a lot of different things,” says OFA Defensive Coordinator Charlie McCormick.

“We can bring people from different areas and we are going to have to bring people against Saranac Lake. They play a spread and we have to pressure their quarterback.

Linebackers Taylor Richardson, Joe Loffler, Nolan Rufa and Mitchell Barber have all proven to be very adept in the blitz package combining with linemen Will Pearson, Jake King and Kevin Goolden who also stands up as a linebacker in certain situations.

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