Sitting in the Golden Dome after a recent morning practice, OFA Football Coach Matt Tessmer looked at his roster and said “We have some very good wide receivers and defensive backs but we really have to replace some very good players and we have a lot of work to do.”
But then he quickly countered himself.
“But it was the same way last year and we didn’t even know who our quarterback was then ” he said.
“Things really worked out because our seniors turned into a great class and we developed so much in all areas. And this year we are set at quarterback with Joey Dalton.”
The Devils won a series of early season games on the last possession in 2013 and went 6-1 in the Northern Conference season while becoming an extremely physical football team.
In the postseason OFA won an unforgetable Section 10 Class C Championship Game in overtime over Potsdam, defeated Section 7 Champion Saranac Lake in the North Country Championship game and issued a stern challenge to top-seeded and undefeated Hoosick Falls in the regionals.
“Last year our juniors were instrumental in our success. So we have to follow last year’s plan of development in our linemen and avoiding injuries,” said Tessmer who will again be assisted by Charlie McCormick, Tony Williams and Brett Monnat.
Development to reproduce the extreme leadership provided by a host of seniors including five All-NAC selections: NAC Lineman of the Year Kevin Goolden, quarterback-defensive back Josh Liebstein who was honored as the NAC MVP of the Watertown Times All-North Team, fullback-linebacker Jordan McCormick, wide receiver defensive back Jon Tayler and lineman Jacob King. Another lineman Zach Barr earned his team’s Sportsmanship Award as a senior.
All-NAC selection Nolan Rufa returns to anchor the offensive line and the linebacking corps while Joey Dalton looks to expand upon the promise he showed as a freshman passing, running and coordinating out of an uptempo, spead offense.
An offense ideally suited to the all-weather fast track of the Devils’ turf stadium.
His freshman season was highlighted by a come-from-behind win over Massena which proved to be a turning point for the team.
“Nolan Rufa is a three-year varsity player, an all-star and a true leader. Joey (Dalton) is bigger and stronger than he was last year and he will also play defensive back,” said Tessmer
The OFA offense also returns two of its top receivers and playmakers from a year ago in slot back Jon Rogers and wide receiver Nick Sweeney. Both will also see action in the defensive secondary.
Senior Taylor Richardson is ready to move into a lead running back role and returns to a starting linebacker position.
Also returning from last season’s player rotation are: Devon Compo (Sr OL-DL), Quinton Denner (Sr OL, LB), Zade Lesperance (Jr OL-LB), Andrew Layng (Jr WR-DB), Will Pearson (Sr DL-OL-FB), Nathan Rishe (Jr OL-LB), Cody Rolfe (Sr DB-WR) and Brent Mills (Sr DL, WR).
Two first year varsity players bring proven athletic ability to mix. Jack Manke (WR, LB) who played very effectively at the JV level and Dave Prudhomme (WR-DB-K) was a two-year All-NAC performer in soccer.
Moving up from the JV level are: Cote Bidwell (Jr WR-LB), James Gibson (So WR-LB) Kevin Joanette (So WR-DB), Jack Kelly (So LB-OL), Ed Newcombe (Jr DL-FB), Anthoni Pope (So DB, WR), Jordan Pribble (Jr DB-WR), Adam Rickett (Jr QB-LB), Allen Smithers (Jr RB, LB), Devin Thurman (So DL-OL), Zach Worden (Jr DL-OL), Austin Vangorden (Jr WR-LB) and Dom Yerdon (Jr DB-WR).
The Devils will host Malone, Watertown IHC and Saranac Central in a scrimmage beginning at 10 a.m. and will open their regular season on Sept. 5 hosting St. Lawrence Central. The opening game will start at 7:30 p.m. following a 4:30 p.m. JV game with Canton.
“This group really works hard. Right now we have players who are really advanced and some that just learning,” said Tessmer.
“Right now everyone has to be patient and not get frustrated.”