OGDENSBURG A new football season always brings a new set a challenges for a coaching staff.
Along with the normal team reconstruction project, the OFA coaches had to deal with a construction project where the early stages of the installation of an all-weather turf field is now taking place on the Blue Devils practice field.
The Devils adapted smoothly to practicing at Monnet Park while preparing for a major regular season challenge that sees league and playoff champion Potsdam joining OFA, St. Lawrence Central and Canton in the Class C ranks.
Potsdam moved down from Class A when the state changed its procedure for calculating the classification of schools utilizing merger agreements with neighboring schools in certain sports.
Potsdam will be very good once again. They return their quarterback in Will Coleman and one of the best running backs in the league in Oden Robertson, said OFA coach Matt Tessmer.
Tessmer believes that his team is off to a good start toward meeting the challenges ahead and competing for a third straight trip to the state tournament.
The state tournament berth will be decided by a sectional tournament this fall.
The Devils had the added benefit of facing outstanding competition in their annual preseason scrimmage on Saturday when they hosted Indian River, Malone and Immaculate Heart Central.
Leading the Blue Devils into a new season will be a returning first team All-NAC selection and three-year varsity player in two-way lineman Kevin Goolden and a second team selection in wide receiver/defensive back Josh Liebstein starting his fourth varsity season.
The guys have worked very hard and are great to work with, said coach Tessmer of the OFA 27-man OFA roster, which is developing toward a Sept. 6 home opener against Canton in the first of five regular season home games.
We are inexperienced in spots but we also have guys with a lot of experience, Tessmer said. One of our strengths this season will be our receiving corps. We have a lot of guys who can catch the ball and make plays and offensively we should also have a strong running game.
Major keys to exploiting those strengths is the development of first year starters in the offensive line and developing a quarterback to replace Nate Angel, who was a two-time All-NAC selection. The Devils must also replace the leadership provided by All-NAC award winners in Alex Farrell (RB, WR, DE), Jake Garrison (OL-DL), Zach Sharpe (LB-FB) and John Morrison (OL).
Liebstein and Jordan McCormick, a returning starter at running back, are currently taking practice snaps along with freshman Joe Dalton coming off a very prolific junior varsity passing season where juniors Nick Sweeney and Jon Rogers were his big play targets.
Liebstein and McCormick will be part of a cast of players who played regularly both ways last fall for Devils who went 4-3 in the NAC. Other returnees are seniors Mitchel Barber (WR, LB), Keegan Clark (OL-DL), Taylor Bouchard (WR-DB), Jon Tayler (WR-DB), Jake King (OL-DL), Zach Barr (OL-DL), Chandler Barney (WR-DB), Ryan Denny (RB, LB) and junior Nolan Rufa (OL-LB).